MIAMI (AP) Before signing reliever Junichi Tazawa, the Miami Marlins consulted with an expert on Japanese pitching: Ichiro Suzuki.
Tazawa finalized his $12 million, two-year contract with the Marlins on Friday after passing a physical. The deal came with an endorsement from Suzuki, the Marlins' outfielder and 3,000-hit club member.
What was Suzuki's scouting report on his fellow native of Japan?
''That he's a very good pitcher and can help us,'' president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. ''He signed off, and that was good to know.''
Tazawa had been with the Boston Red Sox since his rookie year in 2009, and has a career ERA of 3.58. Miami swung the deal for the right-hander after falling short in its pursuit of high-priced closers Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen.
''We know there's competition for players,'' Hill said. ''You have a Plan A, but you have a Plan B, C and D to accomplish your goal.''
A.J. Ramos remains the closer, at least for now, and Tazawa should help compensate for the loss of left-hander Mike Dunn to Colorado in free agency.
Hill said he's pleased with the way the bullpen shapes up.
''The goal is always to try to put together the deepest bullpen we can, and a bullpen with different looks and different ways to get people out,'' Hill said. ''With Junichi you see someone who has pitched in the very competitive American League East and has a varied repertoire of weapons to get hitters out.''
The Marlins have also acquired starting pitchers Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke to help compensate for the loss of ace Jose Fernandez, who died in a boat crash in September. They added A.J. Ellis as their backup catcher.
''If we had to play right now, we're able to play,'' Hill said. ''I'm very comfortable with what we've been able to accomplish in the offseason.''
Miami designated right-hander Nefi Ogando for assignment to clear a roster spot.