ST. PETERSBURG -- A year and a half after he was signed to a two-year, $6 million contract by the Indians, Masa Kobayashi was informed by the club after Saturday's game that he will be removed from the active and 40-man rosters on Sunday to make room for David Huff. Kobayashi's contract, once viewed as a move to bolster the Indians' bullpen and demonstrate the benefits of their increased efforts to scout the Pacific Rim, worked out to $91,837.20 per out. In Japan, Kobayashi was one of the most successful closers in professional baseball. But in America, he became an afterthought in manager Eric Wedge's struggling 'pen. Kobayashi, who turns 35 on May 24, compiled an 8.38 ERA in 10 appearances this season. He gave up nine runs on 12 hits with two homers, four walks and four strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings. In 67 appearances with the Tribe over the last two seasons, Kobayashi was 4-5 with a 5.10 ERA and six saves.
The Indians, though, hope to keep Kobayashi in the system. He can be optioned to Columbus if he agrees to the move. Otherwise, he'll be a free agent. Kobayashi said he'd prefer to remain in America, but he's not sure what his next move will be. "I'll talk to my agent to see what the best option is," he said through an interpreter. "Everything is up in the air right now." The Indians signed Kobayashi on the merit of the 227 saves and 2.79 ERA he compiled over nine seasons with Chiba Lotte of the Japanese Pacific League. He was the first, and thus far only, professional player the Indians signed out of Japan. The Indians liked Kobayashi's experience in the late innings and the slider he used as an out pitch. But Kobayashi's stuff never translated into consistent big league success. "We're hoping he'll accept the assignment to Columbus and keep working to get himself going," Wedge said. "We need him to be more effective in more meaningful situations." General manager Mark Shapiro was asked earlier this week if he regrets the Kobayashi signing. "Throughout all of making player-personnel decisions," Shapiro said, "there are signings that work out well, there are signings that work out for a period of time and don't work out for the length of the contract and there are signings that don't work out at all, whether it be a $10 million outfielder or a bullpen guy that doesn't work out. I'd never characterize one sign as a disappointment. There are some that don't work out and some that do." Kobayashi clearly didn't work out, and neither has the three-year, $11.5 million signing of David Dellucci, which Shapiro appeared to reference with that remark. Dellucci might be in danger of a similar fate to that of Kobayashi when Travis Hafner, rehabbing a sore right shoulder at Columbus, comes off the disabled list later this month.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.