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Rays in Running for Yabuta

The Chicago Tribune reports the Rays, White Sox, Royals, Pirates, and Indians are amongst the finalists vying for Chiba Lotte Marines reliever Yasuhiko Yabuta.

Yabuta, a 34-year-old right-hander, had a 2.73 ERA in 58 appearances for the Chiba Lotte Marines last season. He filed for free agency last month.

Yabuta helped Japan to the 2006 World Baseball Classic title. His achievements included strikeouts of Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon and Derrek Lee.

It had previously been reported that the Royals were close to signing him to a two year deal with an option for a third, but that was on Thursday and there has yet to be any new information appear.

East Coast Windup did a preview on MLBTR, and here's what they said about Yabuta:

Yasuhiko Yabuta - Yabuta, the right-handed set up man for the Chiba Lotte Marines, is probably best known for striking out A-Rod, Derrek Lee, and Johnny Damon in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.  The Chicago White Sox need a set-up man and are rumored to have a strong interest in Yabuta, who has racked up 86 holds and a sub 3.00 ERA over the last 3 years for the Marines despite not panning out as a starter. [Note: the Red Sox are said to have a working agreement with the Marines, also.]