MESA, Ariz. -- After six years playing baseball in Japan, it was time to come back to the U.S., Matt Murton said. The redheaded outfielder is back with the Cubs after signing a Minor League contract.
"It's an opportunity," Murton said Friday. "[The Cubs] didn't guarantee anything."
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The Cubs acquired Murton, 34, from the Red Sox in July 2004 as part of the Nomar Garciaparra trade, and he batted .294 with 28 home runs and 104 RBIs in 308 games from 2005-08. Murton spent one season with the Rockies in '09, then joined the Hanshin Tigers in '10 and batted .310 with 77 home runs over six seasons in Japan.
"We went over there [to Japan] kicking and screaming a little bit," Murton said. "When we got there we figured, we'd do a year or two and see what happens, and [stayed for] six years."
Murton said most foreign players, or gaijin, spend four or five years with one team in Japan and then start to bounce around.
"I was very fortunate to be the longest-tenured position player in [Hanshin's] history," he said. "It was time for me to move. It came down to did I want to do this in another city and start over in Japan. I've always had the intention to come back here."
He can speak a little Japanese, and carry a basic conversation. Murton now has four young children and was looking forward to being around family more in the U.S.
"I'm looking forward to being back here and be one of the guys and just enjoy the sport," he said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.