for several reasons. First and foremost, he's a legitimate starting pitcher. The only sure thing about the Birds' 2009 rotation was Jeremy Guthrie; now we can pencil in a veteran who has twice won his league's equivalent of the Cy Young Award for the Yomiuri Giants, one of the most successful and storied franchises in Japan. He has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of approximately 5-to-1, and a 12-0 record in international competition. Even though he struggled by his standards in 2008, his 3.81 ERA would have looked pretty damn good on the O's staff. As for his demotion to the minors, it's been suggested that the team was punishing him for his decision to pitch in America. Baltimore also signed him to a reasonable contract: two years, $10 million with an additional $6 million in incentives. Compare that to the five-year, $20 million Kei Igawa contract that the Yankees are saddled with (not to mention the $26 million they posted just to negotiate with him!).
Of greater significance still might be the Orioles' standing as an international player. After years of sticking their heads in the sand while the Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, Angels, and others got a head start in scouting and signing in Cuba, Japan, and elsewhere, Andy MacPhail is truly rebuilding a badly damaged organization from the ground up. It's exciting to imagine throngs of Japanese baseball fans watching and reading about the Orioles. Heck, maybe they'll even throw some All-Star Game votes to the guys in orange and black!
Welcome to Baltimore, Koji. I hope there's a Japanese word for "hon".