Notes: Tribe makes inroads in Far East

Notes: Tribe makes inroads in Far East

CLEVELAND -- Three years into their mission to more aggressively scour the Far East for ballplayers, the Indians appear to have their feet on the ground.

"After three years of establishing contacts and hiring Jason Lee as our Pacific Rim scout," said John Mirabelli, the Tribe's director of scouting, "this is an opportunity for the organization to capitalize."

The opportunity Mirabelli is referring to is the spate of postings of high-profile Japanese players.

Potential ace Daisuke Matsuzaka, the MVP of the World Baseball Classic, was posted by the Seibu Lions earlier this week. Mirabelli is prohibited by the Commissioner's Office from confirming it, but it's believed the Indians submitted a bid for the right-hander. The Lions were informed of the winning bidder Thursday and must decide whether to accept or reject the bid. If the bid is accepted, the winning team will have 30 days to negotiate a contract with Matsuzaka's agent, Scott Boras.

"We've taken a very proactive approach, to this point," Mirabelli said.

Not just with Matsuzaka, but with some other Japanese talent, as well.

The Indians have moderate interest in Akinori Iwamura, a 27-year-old, Gold Glove-winning third baseman who was posted Monday by the Yakult Swallows. MLB teams have until 5 p.m. ET Friday to submit bids for Iwamura, and the Indians might be in the hunt.

"He's not your prototypical body guy [for a third baseman]," Mirabelli said. "He's got some power, but also some holes in his swing. He is a pretty good athlete, and he's played at other spots around the diamond."

Though Matsuzaka and Iwamura are the two names creating the biggest buzz around baseball, less-touted left-hander Kei Igawa, who went 14-9 with a 2.97 ERA this season for the Hanshin Tigers, is another player the Tribe has scouted and might pursue. He's expected to be posted sometime in the next 10 days.

"He's a strike-thrower with a plus changeup," Mirabelli said.

The Indians jumped headfirst into the international pool this year, signing Taiwanese right-hander Sung-Wei Tseng and Australian shortstop Jason Smit in July.

Tseng, the No. 1 starter for the Chinese Taipei National Team that toured the U.S. this summer, joined the Indians during last month's Fall Instructional League and impressed, Mirabelli said.

"He performed very well down there," Mirabelli said. "Our player development staff was very happy with him. We're projecting him to start [2007] at [Class A] Kinston."

The Tseng signing and the pursuit of the posted Japanese players is a byproduct of the Indians' increased efforts overseas.

"It's been a bigger-picture approach in Asia with Major League talent and amateur talent," Mirabelli said. "We're going to be aggressive. We have a lot of interest in players, and the feeling is mutual."

Backstop boost: Though Victor Martinez is firmly installed as the everyday catcher and Kelly Shoppach did a formidable job as his backup this past season, the Indians will still have a wealth of arms to catch during Spring Training camp.

Enter Mike Rose, who was signed by the club to a Minor League deal with an invite to big-league camp Thursday.

The 30-year-old Rose spent most of '06 in the Cardinals' organization, batting .262 with 15 homers and 36 RBIs in 82 games for Triple-A Memphis. Prior to that, he appeared in 20 games at Triple-A Durham in the Devil Rays' system. He appeared in 10 September games as the third catcher for the Cardinals.

Rose was a fifth-round pick by the Astros in the 1995 First-Year Player Draft. He's also spent time in the farm systems of the Diamondbacks, Royals and Red Sox. He appeared in two games for the A's in 2004 and caught 15 games for the Dodgers in '05. Rose owns a career Minor League average of .263 with 85 homers and 418 RBIs in 1,025 games.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.