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Braves agree to deal with Kawakami
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ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves reached an agreement with Japanese all-star pitcher Kenshin Kawakami on a three-year contract.

The team scheduled a news conference for Tuesday to announce the deal, Braves spokesman Brad Hainje said.

Terms were not immediately available. Kawakami's agent, Dan Evans, declined comment until the news conference.

Kawakami, the 2004 Central League MVP, has won 112 games in 11 seasons in Japan and was regarded as one of the top free-agent pitchers from Japan available this offseason. The 33-year-old was 9-5 for the Chunichi Dragons last year, when he missed several weeks because of a back strain.

The 5-foot-10 right-hander was given a physical in Atlanta on Monday.

Kawakami will be introduced in Atlanta the same day Boston holds a news conference to announce they have signed former longtime Braves pitcher John Smoltz.

Though many Atlanta fans are still upset over the loss of Smoltz, Kawakami is important to the Braves' hopes of rebuilding their rotation.

The Braves have attempted to boost their presence in Japan in recent years, and manager Bobby Cox said scouts have closely followed Kawakami.

"We've had some guys watch him the last couple of years, and they like him," Cox said Saturday.

Cox said he was impressed by video of Kawakami.

"He looked very good," Cox said. "He was able to throw the ball right where he wanted to with three or four pitches."

The Braves also lost Mike Hampton, who has signed as a free agent with the Houston Astros. General manager Frank Wren has said he must prepare to be without top starter Tim Hudson for the full season. Hudson is recovering from elbow ligament-replacement surgery and may return in the second half of the season.

Meanwhile, Tom Glavine remains unsigned as the Braves monitor his recovery from surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left elbow. Glavine has pushed back original plans to begin throwing this week.

Kawakami will join Javier Vazquez as newcomers to a rotation that also includes 2008 rookie right-hander Jair Jurrjens. Wren acquired Vazquez, a right-hander, from the Chicago White Sox for a package of minor leaguers.

Jurrjens was the team's top starter last season with a 13-10 record and 3.68 ERA. Another rookie, Jorge Campillo, was 8-7 with a 3.91 ERA.

The Braves are still believed to have hopes of signing free agent Derek Lowe, who visited Atlanta last week.

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