The Angels have intensified their pursuit of Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, who toured Angel Stadium on Saturday and then went out to lunch with General Manager Jerry Dipoto and Manager Mike Scioscia.
Upon returning to Japan on Sunday, Fujikawa, a 32-year-old right-hander who has been Japan’s top closer for six years, told reporters, “I was very impressed with the way the Angels welcomed me. I had never been treated like that.”
According to Japanese media reports, Fujikawa also visited with the Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles. The Texas Rangers were also reportedly interested in the pitcher.
Fujikawa, who mixes a 93-mph fastball with a split-fingered fastball and slider, went 3-3 with a 1.24 earned run average and 41 saves in 56 games for the Hanshin Tigers last season. He has never had an ERA higher than 2.01, and he has racked up 914 strikeouts in 703 career innings in Japan.
Because Fujikawa, who pitched for Japan’s WBC team in 2006 and 2009, has played 10 years in Japan, major league teams do not have to go through the often-expensive posting system to acquire him.
While Dipoto has confirmed his interest in Fujikawa, he would not discuss contract negotiations nor whether the pitcher projects more as a closer or setup man in the major leagues.
“I’ve seen him pitch against major league hitters on a world stage,” Dipoto said at the GM meetings earlier this month. “His talent is not a question.”