After nearly a week’s wait from word of the initial rumor, the Tampa Bay Rays signed veteran slugger Hideki Matsui to a minor league contract on Monday, April 30.
Matsui aka “Godzilla” had been a free-agent and will report to extended spring training at the team’s plush facility in Port Charlotte, Florida. Once ready to face big league pitching, the outfielder is expected to bolster the team’s bench and improve Tampa Bay’s options for the designated hitter spot, especially against right-handed pitching.
Matsui last competed for the Oakland A’s during the 2011 season, where the 37 year-old averaged .251 in 141 games, while belting 12 HR and 72 RBI.
Apart from 2 injury-plagued campaigns during his tenure with the New York Yankees, those numbers represented career lows for the Japanese player. After making his mark as a superstar in Japan for a decade, Matsui was a high-profile addition to the Yankees in 2003. He spent 7 seasons in New York, blasting 140 home runs and serving as the team’s regular left fielder.
Hideki Matsui now becomes the fourth import from Japan to sign with the Rays, adding to a list that includes Akinori Iwamura, Hideo Nomo and Shinji Mori.