OAKLAND -- Flashing confidence, a sense of humor and a very wide smile, Hiroyuki Nakajima introduced himself as a potentially promising fit to the A's multicultural roster on Tuesday.
Most importantly, the 30-year-old Japanese veteran will be Oakland's starting shortstop after agreeing Monday to a two-year, $6.5 million contract that includes a club option for a third year.
It appears the A's have added another character to their irreverent, extroverted international clubhouse scene. After studying nervously Monday night to introduce himself in English, the first question asked of Nakajima was why he picked Oakland as his American baseball destination.
"(A's general manager) Billy Beane is extremely sexy and cool," he said, prompting considerable laughter from a roomful of Bay Area and Japanese media. "That's definitely one of the reasons I signed here."
Answering a subsequent question about making a cultural adjustment from Japan to the U.S., Nakajima jokingly answered that the lack of bathtubs in America could be a concern. At the end of his news conference, he once again broke into English to add, "I will do my best for the team, but I also want to Bernie Dance with Oakland."
In a more serious vein, Nakajima said one of the reasons he signed with Oakland was that he could be an everyday shortstop in the major leagues.
Beane said the A's have been scouting Nakajima for the better part of two years and became very serious about pursuing him early in the winter once they realized they could compete on the price.
"The more things we uncovered and the longer we got into the winter, the more we realized this was the guy," Beane said. "We were a little concerned early on that the competition might make it challenging for us financially."
Beane said other clubs expressed interest in Nakajima but not necessarily at shortstop, and not as a full-time player. Nakajima said through an interpreter that one of the reasons he turned down an offer from the New York Yankees last year was that he might not be able to play every day.
But for the A's, he's definitely the guy at short. Beane noted the glowing reports he received from former Oakland international scout Dan Kantrovitz, now the scouting director with St. Louis, and new international scouting coordinator Sam Geaney. Beane said it helped convince him that signing Nakajima would be a smart baseball move.
Asked to categorize his new shortstop offensively and defensively, Beane said, "Solid is the word. Good hands, probably profiles as an offensive player with a steady glove."
The greatest concern about Nakajima may be on defense, where he has played on artificial turf pretty much his entire career. He will be playing primarily on natural grass now, but the infielder maintained that he would make a quick adjustment, though admitting he wants to exhibit his own flair in time. For now he yearns to show how steady he can be at shortstop.
"As much as I want to copy those amazing plays, fundamentals are very important and making the basic plays is what I want to do," he said.
Nakajima could be an upgrade at the plate for Oakland if his statistics translate even reasonably well to the American majors. The 5-foot-11, 198-pound Nakajima hit .311 with 29 doubles, 13 home runs and 74 RBI in 136 games for the Seibu Lions of the Japanese Pacific League last season, earning All-Star and Gold Glove recognition.
Since joining Seibu as a 19-year old in 2002, he has collected 248 doubles, 20 triples, 162 home runs, 738 RBI and 141 stolen bases, He has posted a .371 on-base percentage and has a .472 slugging percentage.
He has also been a durable player in his native country, multiple times playing in all 144 games of the Nippon Professional Baseball regular season.
"For a guy who plays every day, his physical was outstanding," Beane noted. "Our doctors were impressed what kind of physical shape he was in. They raved about his fitness."
Nakajima said he received strong recommendations from Japanese players such as Ichiro Suzuki and Kaz Matsui about playing for the A's and said he has been impressed from afar about how the club operates.
"I've heard a lot about how last season's postseason appearance had a lot to do with the team chemistry, youth and energy," he said. "I'm extremely fascinated and excited to be part of that team chemistry."
Despite the language barrier, Beane said Nakajima should fit right in with Oakland's loose clubhouse.
"Any time you're going across the world to start a new job, there's going to be a change in the culture," Beane said. "But even we noticed (Monday) -- and we heard this from everybody -- his personality and his willingness to embrace his new surroundings, I think he's going to be very popular in our clubhouse and outside our clubhouse. There are some things when you're here in Oakland that just feel right. This one felt right."
Marte, 21, batted .251 with nine home runs and 58 RBIs at Double-A last season. Cowgill split time between Triple-A Sacramento and the big club, batting .269 with one home run in 38 games with the A's.
POS.: Shortstop Age: 30
Bats: Right Throws: Right