Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe is reporting that the Boston Red Sox are close to finalizing a one year deal that would bring the left-handed reliever back to Boston for one more year.
The Sox had formerly non-tendered Okajima earlier in the offseason. He was due a pay raise on the $2.75 million he earned in 2010, a figure which the Red Sox didn't think he was worth.
Despite underwhelming stuff, Okajima had been one of the more dominant set-up men in baseball from 2007-09, before completely falling off the radar last season.
In 56 appearances, Okie lasted just 46.0 innings, with a 4.50 ERA and atrocious 1.72 WHIP. Left-handed batters hit .284/.357/.375/.732 off him in 99 plate appearances.
After struggling for more than four months last season, Okajima went on the disabled list on August 6 with hamstring and calf problems.
He missed about three weeks of action, but upon return, was his old dominant self. For whatever reason, Okajima completely figured things out following his stint on the DL.
In fifteen appearances in September and October, Okajima had just a 1.38 ERA and 1.00 WHIP through 13.0 innings of work. Batters hit just .200/.265/.267/.532 off him in 50 total plate appearances and he walked just four batters.
His complete turn-around following his time off, led to some speculation of whether or not Okajima was hiding injuries all season long, which explained his ineffectiveness.
Whatever the case, Okajima's finish to 2010 at least earned him an opportunity to compete for a job in 2011. He'll join the ranks of left-handers competing for a spot on the Red Sox bullpen in 2011, specifically Andrew Miller, Rich Hill, Andrew Miller and Felix Doubront.
While Okajima isn't guaranteed a spot on the 2011 roster by any means, if he pitches in Spring Training the way he did to finish 2010, he'll open the day in the Boston Red Sox pen.
It seems at this point that the Red Sox are content to start camp with a group of low-level lefties who will compete for a job, instead of finding a top-tier lefty via free agency like Brian Fuentes. The Red Sox are generally unwilling to give long term deals to relievers, so the addition of a top left-hander through free agency was unlikely anyways.
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