Stults confirms deal to play in Japan

Stults confirms deal to play in Japan

PHOENIX -- Eric Stults confirmed Tuesday that his contract is being sold by the Dodgers to the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, and he has agreed to a one-year deal with a 2011 option to play in Japan.

The Dodgers insisted no deal had been completed and indicated that any announcement could be several days off, as procedures must be followed to complete the sale of a player's contract.

But the 30-year-old left-hander said his agent confirmed that the deal is done on their end. Stults was scratched from his scheduled Tuesday start in Tucson against the Rockies. He said his goodbyes to teammates in the clubhouse and manager Joe Torre confirmed that Stults was no longer in the running to be his fifth starter.

Torre said he would not announce his fifth starter until this weekend. Charlie Haeger is considered the front-runner in a group that still includes Russ Ortiz, Josh Towers, Carlos Monasterios and Ramon Ortiz.

There have been rumors of Japanese interest in Stults since last year, although he had said he wouldn't consider it as long as there was a chance he could pitch in the Major Leagues. Stults is out of options and would likely have been claimed by another Major League club if the Dodgers tried to send him to the Minor Leagues.

The Dodgers are believed to be receiving several hundred thousand dollars compensation.

Stults was the only pitcher on the Dodgers roster who threw complete-game shutouts each of the last two years. Last year, he went 4-3 with a 4.86 ERA in 10 starts.

But he was told by general manager Ned Colletti over the winter that the club wanted him to be more aggressive in his approach to batters. Stults conceded that, lacking overpowering stuff, he tends to nibble. In addition to the cut fastball he picked up at the end of last season, he had been working via telephone with Dana Sinclair, the Canadian-based sports psychologist the Dodgers have on retainer.

Stults' problems last year started with the death of his mother just before Spring Training and he all but disappeared midway through 2009, even though he had a winning record (4-3) and that shutout, a four-hit masterpiece against the Giants on May 9 pitching in place of the injured Hiroki Kuroda. The Dodgers were 7-3 in his 10 starts. He went 3-1 with a 2.55 ERA in four Dodger Stadium starts and 4-1 against the NL West.

But he sprained his thumb in Florida on May 15 and tried pitching through the pain. He made two starts after the injury, his ERA jumped a full run and he was placed on the disabled list at the end of May. When he was healthy, he was optioned to Triple-A instead of returned to the starting rotation.

He made only one other appearance for the Dodgers, called up for an Aug. 9 start against Atlanta. He allowed three runs in five innings of an 8-2 loss and was sent down two days later, never to be seen by Dodgers fans again, unless they attended an Albuquerque Isotopes game. He didn't even get a September call-up.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.