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Royals sign teen Yuki to minor-league deal

Jiji Press

Teenaged pitcher Kaito Yuki poses in a Kansas City Royals uniform on Sunday in Osaka Prefecture.

The Associated Press KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kaito Yuki is headed to the Kansas City Royals organization instead of attending high school in Japan.

The team signed Yuki, a 16-year-old pitcher, out of junior high school to a standard seven-year minor league contract Sunday. He is thought to be the first Japanese junior high school player to sign with a major league club.

“I wanted to play in the United States as soon as possible, rather than playing high school ball at Koshien Stadium [in the iconic national championship],” Yuki said in a Royals press release.

Yuki is listed at 1.88 meters, 77 kilograms and his fastball has been clocked at about 140 kph. He was born on May 12, 2002.

“My goal is to do well in the majors. Not everybody is given that chance, so I want to do my best,” he said at a news conference in his hometown in Osaka Prefecture.

Yuki has been studying English before his move to the United States. The Royals are optimistic that after paperwork is completed, he will arrive in August at the team’s spring training complex in Surprise, Ariz., to begin familiarizing himself with the local culture and language.

He would participate in the Royals’ fall instructional league in September and October, with the objective of making his pro debut in the minors next year.

“The first thing is for him to be patient and build up his body, and then if he stays on course, in five years get an invite to major league spring training,” said Hiroyuki Oya, a Royals international scout.

Yuki has been compared to Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish, who grew up in the same city.

“I’m anxious, but I am more excited now,” Yuki said at his news conference in Japan.

He garnered the attention of scouts last year while representing Japan in a youth tournament in the United States.

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