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Braves close to signing Kawakami
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ATLANTA — Braves manager Bobby Cox said Saturday night he hopes the club will sign Japanese star Kenshin Kawakami to shore up its depleted rotation.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media outlets reported Saturday the Braves had reached a preliminary agreement with the 33-year-old right-hander. Cox said he couldn’t confirm the deal, but said the team is interested.

“We’ve had some guys watch him the last couple of years, and they like him,” Cox said.
Cox said he has watched Kawakami on film “and he looked very good. He was able to throw the ball right where he wanted to with three or four pitches.”

Kawakami’s agent, former Dodgers general manager Dan Evans, declined comment Saturday. Braves GM Frank Wren did not respond to an e-mail from The Associated Press, and assistant general manager Bruce Manno said he had no comment on Kawakami.

Kawakami, the 2004 Central League MVP, has a 112-82 career record with a 3.22 ERA in 11 seasons in Japan. He was 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA for the Chunichi Dragons in 2008, despite missing several weeks with a back strain.

The 5-foot-10 righty would be an important addition to a Braves rotation that will be without John Smoltz, who has reached a preliminary agreement with the Red Sox on a $5.5 million, one-year contract.

Atlanta also lost free agent Mike Hampton to the Houston Astros and is preparing to be without ace Tim Hudson for the season as Hudson recovers from elbow ligament-replacement surgery.

Free agent Derek Lowe, a 14-game winner for the Dodgers last season, met with Braves officials in Atlanta on Thursday.

Wren was frustrated in trade talks for San Diego ace Jake Peavy, and free-agent pitcher A.J. Burnett spurned the Braves to sign with the New York Yankees.

Cox said he hopes more pitching help is coming.

“We need some, that’s for sure,” he said.

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