Angels close to minor league deal with Japanese reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi

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After considering a move over to MLB following the 2010 season, Japanese reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi is finally headed stateside. According to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, the 34-year-old right-hander is close to a minor league deal with the Angels. The deal is expected an invite to spring training.

Kobayashi has a 3.53 ERA over 12 seasons in Japan. He was an effective starter for a long time prior to moving to the bullpen in 2010, when he saved 29 games for the Chiba Lotte Marines. He moved on to the Hanshin Tigers from there, posting a 3.00 ERA and 45/19 K/BB ratio over 39 innings in 2011. However, he didn’t throw a pitch in Nippon Professional Baseball last year.

Kobayashi was never regarded as a top talent in Japan and wasn’t offered a major league contract last time around, so the Angels are likely looking at him as minor league bullpen depth.