12/01/2006 12:57 PM ET
Roundup: Clayton, Jays find match
Royce Clayton was looking for an everyday role. The Toronto Blue Jays were looking for veteran leadership.
Royce Clayton hit .258 with two home runs and 40 RBIs last season. (David Kohl/AP)
Both sides got what they wanted when the Blue Jays signed Clayton to a one-year contract.
"We are very happy to be able to add Royce to our club," general manager J.P. Ricciardi told the Toronto Globe and Mail. "He is a veteran presence that will strengthen us up the middle and in the clubhouse."
Clayton said he received interest from a lot of clubs this offseason, but the deciding factor in his choosing Toronto was the fact he will be a starter for the Blue Jays.
"The bottom line is I'm not ready to be a backup. I consider myself an everyday player and I wanted to go some place where I could contribute that way," Clayton said. "I've played in over 2,000 games and, knock on wood, I've been on the disabled list once. I take a lot of pride in being out there and contributing every day."
Splitting time between Washington and Cincinnati last season, Clayton hit .258 with two home runs and 40 RBIs. He added 14 steals as well.
Veteran Japanese reliever Okajima joins BoSox: Seeking to add to their bullpen, the Boston Red Sox signed Japanese reliever Hideki Okajima to a two-year contract with an option for 2009. Okajima pitched for 12 years in Japan. He played for the Nippon Ham Fighters last season after spending 11 seasons with the Yomiuri Giants.
Last season, Okajima, a left-hander, was 2-2 with a 2.14 ERA in 55 games. For his career, he is 34-32 with a 3.36 ERA with 41 saves. The Red Sox are also in negotiations with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, but general manager Theo Epstein said Okajima was signed because of his talent, not because of his nationality.
"Certainly we made this move today for Hideki Okajima on the merits he's going to be a valuable member of our bullpen," Epstein told the Boston Herald. "If we do end up with two Japanese pitchers, it will help the assimilation process, not only on the field, but also off the field.
"It's going to be a process for Hideki coming over to learn the ins and outs of a baseball clubhouse and living in a new country. He has got a wife and two children as well who will be making the transition, so having someone else going through the same process at the same time would be very helpful."
Okajima has experience as a closer, with 25 saves for the Giants in 2001. While he may get some save situations in 2007, Okajima's agent, Anthony Nakanishi, said he and his client are pleased that Okajima won't be used as only a situational left-handed pitcher.
"(The Red Sox) envision him (as) more than just a left-handed situational guy, so we're happy about that," said Nakanishi, who added his client is "mentally and physically capable of closing."
Floyd's path is clear: Philadelphia pitcher Gavin Floyd is ready to take his career to the next level, and Phillies assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle says that he believes that's exactly what Floyd will do.
"It's time for him now to take it to the next level," Arbuckle told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We've done everything we can do as an organization to help him do it."
The good news for Phillies fans is that Floyd has a plan in place. He knows what problems he's had in the past.
"I was thinking too much and always trying to be the perfectionist," Floyd said quietly after throwing four impressive innings in an Arizona Fall League game.
"I had some old habits, and they were difficult to break. I can't say when my mind-set changed, but now, I'm just focusing on two things. I'm concentrating on a fluid motion, and just seeing the [catcher's] mitt."
Floyd says that he made good progress in the fall league.
"I made some very good strides and I'm extremely happy with the way things went," said Floyd. "I'm now at a very comfortable stage, and eager to get to Spring Training."
Loyalty keeps Millar in Baltimore: Kevin Millar is where he wants to be.
Despite having sparked interest from the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels and Giants, Millar has opted to go back to Baltimore and cited loyalty as one of the reasons.
"I made a decision, that Baltimore is where I wanted to be. I want to be an Oriole," Millar told the Baltimore Sun. "I didn't want to play any games. They said they wanted me back and I wanted to be loyal to them. I think this team has made some great acquisitions, and I want to be part of it. This is as excited as I've been in a long time."
New Dodgers Pierre, Wolf model new Dodger duds: The Dodgers introduced free agent signees Juan Pierre and Randy Wolf to Dodgers fans in the team's new uniforms, which will include player names on the back of the jersey. The Dodgers' old uniforms did not include player names.
When Pierre and Wolf had their pictures taken with their new uniforms, team personnel asked them to turn around so photographers could get pictures of the names.
"I can bark and rollover, too, if you want," Wolf said.
But Wolf is glad to have his name on the back of his jersey.
"I like it a lot," Wolf told the Los Angeles Daily News. "Going to Dodger Stadium, I always knew I had good tickets when I could read the names on the back of the uniforms."
Counsell happy at home in Milwaukee: Infielder Craig Counsell will play for his hometown Milwaukee Brewers next season after agreeing to a two-year deal plus an option.
Counsell, who played for Milwaukee in 2004, decided to sign with the Brewers despite knowing that Rickie Weeks will start at second base and J.J. Hardy will start at shortstop. Being close to home is more important to Counsell, who attended Whitefish Bay High School.
"I've always loved the Brewers," Counsell told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "The chance to play here again was appealing."
Counsell, whom the Cleveland Indians also pursued, grew up in nearby Whitefish Bay, as did his wife. With three young children and a new home in Whitefish Bay, the lure of playing at home was too much to pass up for Counsell.
"When Doug called, it just kind of felt right," said Counsell. "It's a great situation for my family. I have three little kids. As a father, you're trying to provide some sense of normalcy for them."
Kubel will be ready for Spring Training: After undergoing surgery last week to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, Twins outfielder Jason Kubel is preparing for Spring Training, and all signs point to him being ready to go.
"Everything structurally is fine," general manager Terry Ryan told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "He will be ready to go. I'm almost relieved that there was something in the good knee that didn't allow him to function. We have the health issues taken care of now, so we can move on."
If he is indeed ready, Kubel is set to be the Twins' starting left fielder. Ryan says that he's well aware of the situation.
"I don't have to give him a pep talk," Ryan said. "I gave him the lay of the land here. There's ample opportunity for him to come in and get a job, but we want to make sure people win them and don't give them up."
-- Red Line Editorial