Friday, January 20, 2012
Norichika Aoki 'just happy' for chance
TOKYO -- Even with a significant cut in salary, Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki is pleased to be a Milwaukee Brewer.
"I'm just happy to get the opportunity to play in the major leagues," Aoki said at a news conference Friday. "It's something that has been a dream of mine for quite some time."
The Brewers signed Aoki on Tuesday to a two-year deal with a club option for 2014. The deal is reported to be worth $2.25 million plus incentives. Aoki made $4.2 million last season with the Yakult Swallows in Japan.
The 30-year-old outfielder hit over .300 in six of his seven full seasons and was a three-time batting champion in Japan's Central League. He was the league's 2005 rookie of the year and is a six-time Gold Glove winner.
The Swallows accepted the Brewers' bid of $2.5 million under the posting system in December.
Japanese position players like Tsuyoshi Nishioka of the Minnesota Twins and former Tampa Bay infielder Akinori Iwamura have struggled in the major leagues and that may have affected Aoki's salary.
Aoki bats left-handed, throws right-handed and can play all three outfield positions. He says winning a job as regular member of the Brewers will be his top priority.
"Going into a new situation like this, I don't think you can set specific goals," Aoki said. "I'll just do everything I can to win a regular job and help the team win."
Outfield depth could be critical for the Brewers, given that they may be without National League MVP Ryan Braun for the first 50 games of next season if he loses his appeal for testing positive for a banned substance.
Because the Brewers don't have a scout in Japan, Aoki had a 75-minute workout on Jan. 8 at the team's spring training facility in Arizona attended by Brewers GM Doug Melvin.
"I was a bit nervous, but the team staff made me relaxed and it seems like a very friendly atmosphere," Aoki said. "I'm looking forward to spring training."