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Transactions: Indians Sign Ohka

Signed RHP Tomokazu Ohka to a minor-league contract; Invited him to Spring Training

He has little chance of making the Indians' rotation, but Ohka's an interesting story nonetheless. He started his professional career in the Japan Central League, pitching with the Yokohama Bay Stars from 1994-1998. After the 1998 season, he was purchased by the Boston Red Sox. After a successful season in the high minors (including a no-hitter while with Pawtucket), he got a cup of coffe with the Red Sox in 1999. He bounced between the Boston and Pawtucket rotations in 2000 and 2001, and was traded with current Indian Rich Rundles to the Expos for Ugueth Urbina at the 2001 deadline.

It was with Montreal that Ohka had his best seasons, becoming a pretty good starter for Les Expos. He missed a considerable portion of the 2004 season after a batted ball fractured his right forearm. He apparently lost some velocity after that, and with his stuff not very impressive to begin with, his effectiveness began to suffer. He was dealt to Milwaukee in 2005 after showing up manager Frank Robinson when he went to the mound to remove him  from a game. After an injury-marred 2006 season, the Brewers non-tendered him. He signed with Toronto, but was released half-way through the season because of ineffectiveness. He hasn't seen the majors since. Last season he threw 135.2 innings with AAA Charlotte, but wasn't all that impressive, allowing 146 hits and 63 earned runs (4.18 ERA).

Ohka's fastball, last I saw him, topped out in the high 80s, and he would rely on his breaking pitches to get opposing batters off balance. He has a pretty good idea of how to attack hitters, but his stuff isn't that good and his control isn't precise enough to make up for it. The Indians probably see him as a starter they can stash in Columbus*  in case they need a pitcher in a pinch. On my mental starter depth chart, he's at least eighth or ninth.

*Man, it's going to be tough getting used to typing in Columbus instead of Buffalo.