The Tampa Bay Rays have signed outfielder/designated hitter Hideki Matsui to a minor league contract. The left-handed hitter will report to extended spring training at the Charlotte Sports Park complex in Charlotte County, Fla.
Matsui, who turns 38 in June, has played nine seasons in the major leagues with the New York Yankees (2003-09), Los Angeles Angels (2010) and Oakland Athletics (2011) following a 10-year career with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Central League. He owns a career .285 batting average, 173 home runs, 753 RBI and 248 doubles in 1,202 major league games after hitting .304 with 332 home runs, 889 RBI and 245 doubles in 1,268 games in Japan.
“Over the past two decades, Hideki has been one of the most consistently productive hitters in the world,” said Rays Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. “We are happy to add his ability, approach and professionalism to our organization.”
Matsui was a nine-time All-Star in Japan (1994–2002) and a two-time American League All-Star (2003-04). He has combined for a .295 batting average, 2,629 hits, 505 home runs, 1,642 RBI and 493 doubles in Japan and the United States. While 25 players have reached 500 home runs in the major leagues and eight have done so in Japan, Matsui is the first to combine for 500 home runs in both leagues. He slugged No. 500 on July 20, 2011 at Detroit.
The three-time Central League Most Valuable Player (1996, 2000, 2002) played for three Japan Series Champions with Yomiuri (1998, 2000, 2002) and one World Series Champion with the Yankees in 2009, when he was named World Series MVP.
Matsui has the most home runs, RBI and walks (539) of any Japanese player in major league history. He did not miss a game in his first three seasons with the Yankees, putting together a streak of 518 games played to set the record for longest streak of consecutive games to start a major league career. Prior to that stretch, he played in 1,250 consecutive games with Yomiuri for a total streak of 1,768 straight games as a professional.
In 2011, Matsui played in 141 games for Oakland, batting .251 (130-for-517) with 12 home runs, 72 RBI, 28 doubles and 56 walks. He started 108 games at designated hitter and 27 games in left field. In 61 career games at Tropicana Field, he has hit .297 (66-for-222) with 10 home runs and 43 RBI.
He is the fourth Japanese player signed by the Rays, joining infielder Akinori Iwamura (who played for the Rays from 2007-09), right-handed pitcher Hideo Nomo (2005) and right-handed pitcher Shinji Mori (signed in 2006 but did not play in the majors).