Female knuckler Yoshida to play in Minors

Female knuckler Yoshida to play in Minors

For the first time in more than 10 years, a woman will play professional baseball in the United States this season.

Eri Yoshida, a Japanese knuckleball pitcher, has signed with the Chico Outlaws of the independent Golden Baseball League, according to an Associated Press report on Friday. Yoshida, 18, played professionally in Japan last season and is set to join the Outlaws next month at Spring Training, the team said.

"I am grateful for this opportunity to pitch for the Chico Outlaws," Yoshida told the AP. "This is a dream come true for me and I hope I can contribute to the team and help them win and also to continue to improve as a pro baseball player."

After making her mark last season with the Kobe Cruise 9 of Japan's Kansai Independent League, Yoshida will move to the U.S. and become the first woman to play professionally since Ila Borders retired more than a decade ago. Borders pitched in several independent leagues from 1997-2000. The Outlaws said it would make separate locker room and hotel accommodations for Yoshida while traveling.

"We are really looking forward to having Eri as a member of the Chico Outlaws this season," team president Mike Marshall said.

Yoshida, who taught herself how to throw a knuckleball from watching a video of Tim Wakefield, went 0-2 in 11 appearances with a 4.03 ERA last season. At the Red Sox's spring facility last month, the young pitcher received tutelage from Wakefield himself.

The Golden League consists of 10 teams from California, Arizona, Canada and Mexico. The Outlaws open their season at Tijuana on May 21.

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