Cubs Sign "Mr. Zero"

The Cubs have signed former White Sox reliever Shingo Takatsu to a one-year minor league deal that includes a non-roster invitation to Spring Training.

"Mr. Zero," a nicknamed Takatsu has earned by not having been scored upon in 10 Nippon Series games, is coming off a dismal season in Japan's Central League, where in 25 games for the Yakult Swallows, he went 0-5 with 13 saves and a 6.17 ERA. Yakult released him after the season.

The side-arming, slow-throwing Takatsu came to the U.S. in 2004 to pitch for the White Sox, going 6-4 with 19 saves and a sterling 2.31 in his first American League season. By '05, however, it appeared that American League hitters were sufficiently familiar with his unorthodox delivery and off-off-off-speed pitches to start teeing off on him. (Takatsu's sinker frequently clocks in at just over 50 mph.) He was 1-2 with a 5.97 ERA and 9 homers allowed in fewer than 30 innings when the Sox released him on August 1st.

The Mets picked him up and once again exposed to a league's hitters for the first time, his numbers were good: just two earned runs allowed over 7 2/3 IP, both coming on solo homers. The Mets chose not to re-sign Takatsu after the '05 season.

For the past two years, Takatsu pitched for the Swallows. In October of '06, he recorded his 300th career save (combined total from MLB and Japan), allowing him to join former Seattle Mariner closer Kaz Sasaki as the only Japanese pitchers to have reached that standard.

Lots of jokes being thrown around about how the only reason the Cubs signed Shingo was to give Kosuke Fukudome someone to talk to in Spring Training. Could be. But if it helps Fukudome adjust to all he's going to have to adjust to, I applaud the Cubs. And if by some miracle, Takatsu has a few more deceptive innings in his right arm and he is actually able to make the team and contribute, the signing will obviously be most worthwhile.


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