Dodgers Sign Japan’s Hideo Nomo, Possibly to Replace Hershiser in Rotation

Dodger catcher Mike Piazza, who jokingly wonders whether he’ll have to become a foreign language expert to communicate with his pitchers, might have to start brushing up on his Japanese.

The Dodgers signed Japanese star pitcher Hideo Nomo to a minor-league contract Sunday, and will introduce him and his family today at a downtown news conference. According to one source, Nomo will receive a signing bonus in excess of $2 million, the largest ever provided to a non-major league player.

Nomo, 26, who is expected to replace Orel Hershiser in the starting rotation, would become the first Japanese player from that nation’s major leagues to appear in the U.S. major leagues.


“He (Nomo) has the type of ability that we believe is at a major-league level,” Dodger vice-president Fred Claire said. “I think he has the ability to be a starting pitcher this year.”

The Dodgers could wind up with a United Nations pitching rotation: Dominican Ramon Martinez, Mexican Ismael Valdes, Korean Chan Ho Park, Nomo and American Tom Candiotti.

Nomo, 78-46 with 1,204 strikeouts and a 3.15 earned-run average in his five seasons, led the Japanese League in victories and strikeouts his first four seasons before being plagued by shoulder tendinitis last season.