Royals release Mendoza to allow him to sign with Japanese team

Right-hander Luis Mendoza, who became a little-used long reliever last season after losing his job in the Royals’ rotation, is heading to Japan to rebuild his career.

The Royals requested release waivers Monday on Mendoza to enable him to sign with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan’s Pacific League.

Mendoza was 2-6 last season with a 5.36 ERA for the Royals in 22 games, including 15 starts. He lost his job in the rotation after allowing five runs in 1 2/3 innings in a 10-4 loss to Oakland on July 7.

Thereafter, Mendoza made just six relief appearances, totaling 12 2/3 innings, over the Royals’ final 78 games. He did not pitch after allowing five runs in 3 1/3 innings on in a 16-2 loss to Detroit on Sept. 6.

Mendoza, 30, was eligible for arbitration this winter after making $532,000 in 2013. The Royals were unlikely to agree to arbitration, which meant they were likely to release him if they couldn’t trade him.

Technically, players aren’t traded from major-league clubs to clubs in foreign leagues, although the Royals received an undisclosed sum from the Fighters for agreeing to release Mendoza.

Procedurally, the major-league club must reach such an agreement with the foreign club, which then must reach an agreement with the player.

Once that happens, the big-league club releases the player, who then signs with the foreign club. The net effect is a player can’t be sent to a foreign league against his will.

The Fighters finished 64-78 and in last place in the Pacific League. Former Royals manager Trey Hillman guided the club during 2003-07 and led it to the Japan Series in 2006 and and 2007. The Fighters won the 2006 crown.

Mendoza was 12-17 with a 4.72 ERA in four seasons for the Royals after arriving in an April 2, 2010, trade from Texas. He spent most of 2010 and 2011 at Class AAA Omaha.