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01/13/09 12:05 PM EST

Tigers ink sidearmer Ni to Minors deal

Taiwanese reliever to pitch in World Baseball Classic, big league camp

For the second straight year, the Tigers have plucked a prospect out of Taiwan.

The Tigers announced Tuesday that they have signed left-handed reliever Fu-Te Ni to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league Spring Training camp. Ni, a 25-year-old native of Taiwan, spent the last two seasons pitching in the Chinese Professional Baseball League.

In a news release, president/general manager Dave Dombrowski credited assistant GM Al Avila, director of international operations Tom Moore, Pacific Rim coordinator Kevin Hooker and Taiwan scout Allen Lin with finding and bringing this "well-scouted prospect" to the organization.

"Our personnel that have scouted Ni project him as a Major League pitcher," Dombrowski said. "We are pleased to add Ni as we continue to expand our international scouting efforts."

It's possible Ni could compete for a spot in the Tigers' bullpen, or he might be headed to Triple-A Toledo.

Ni, a sidearmer, went 5-12 with a 3.34 ERA and a league-leading 132 strikeouts in 145 1/3 innings for the China Trust Whales in 2008. The previous season, he went 7-12 with a 3.53 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 122 1/3 innings.

Slated to pitch for Taiwan in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, Ni also played for the Taiwan national team at the 2007 World Cup, and he pitched for Taiwan at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

The Tigers are no strangers to scouting Taiwan. Last year, they signed outfielder Chao-Ting Tang, who went on to play for the Gulf Coast League Tigers.

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