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Brewers sign Japanese batting champion to two-year deal

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MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers signed outfield Norichika Aoki to a two-year contract Tuesday. Aoki is a three-time Japanese batting champion.

The Brewers were awarded the negotiating rights to Aoki on December 19 after the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of the Japanese Central League accepted the highest bid. The team had until 4 p.m.  Tuesday to sign Aoki to a Major or Minor League professional contract. Had Aoki not been signed, he would have returned to Japan and the Brewers would have received back their bid.

Aoki, who turned 30 on January 5, has played his entire eight-year professional career with Yakult, batting .329 with 84 HR, 385 RBI and 164 stolen bases in 985 games. He has batted over .300 in six of his seven full seasons and was Central League batting champion in 2005 (.344), 2007 (.346) and 2010 (.358). He was 2005 Central League Rookie of the Year and is a six-time Golden Glove Award winner.

Aoki worked out for the Brewers on January 8 at the team’s Spring Training facility in Maryvale, Arizona. He bats left and throws right and wore uniform number one (1) while playing for Yakult.