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Mets sign Japanese pitcher Yusaku Iriki

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According to the New York Post, the Mets have signed righthanded Japanese pitcher Yusaku Iriki.

Iriki, a 32-year-old righty who spent last year with the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, will get a one-year deal which also includes a team option, the source said. The deal, which is pending a physical today, is worth slightly less than $1 million and also includes approximately $500,000 in potential incentives, according to the source.

Iriki is likely to be used as an arm that can start a game or come out of the bullpen, which would provide insurance in both areas for the Mets.

Iriki was born on 8/13/72, so he's actually 33, not 32 as the article suggests. This certainly clouds the Mets' bullpen picture. If we assume they will carry twelve pitchers into the regular season, the Mets have the following nine relievers competing for seven bullpen spots:

Billy Wagner *
Aaron Heilman *
Chad Bradford *
Heath Bell
Juan Padilla
Duaner Sanchez
Steve Schmoll
Yusaku Iriki
Mitch Wylie

The top three (*) are locks to make the team, which leaves six pitchers battling for four spots. Competition is almost always a good thing, and the Mets are much better served having too many pitchers than too few. Sanchez will almost assuredly make the team, too, so it will be interesting to see how this whole thing plays out.

Unfortunately, these things tend to "play out" during a meaningless four week stretch of Spring Training games.

As for Iriki, here are his digits, courtesy of JapaneseBaseball.com:

Year  Age      IP     H     K   BB   HR    ERA
2001   28   162.1   143   137   58   19   3.71
2002   29   133.0   120   115   26   13   3.05
2003   ***************************************
2004   31    45.0    57    38   32    8   7.20
2005   32   150.2   147   122   65   16   3.35
Nothing spectacular here, and I'm not sure why there are no stats for 2003. He has his own website at www.yusaku-iriki.com. It's in Japanese, but here are links to Google-translated versions of some of the pages:

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