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11/01/2003 Archived Entry: "Japanese Baseball News: No Interest in Irabu; No Posting for Iguchi?"

Team Reports

Yomiuri The Giants are still not allowing agents to negotiate with the ballclub and ace Koji Uehara is fuming. Scheduled talks between Uehara and/or his representative and Yomiuri have been called off. Uehara says that his dispute with the Giants isn't over money, but over the rights players have. "[Yomiuri] if the only team who won't recognize that," the righthander grumbled. Now whether Uehara will ask to be posted or not is up in the air, but this battle obviously isn't over....Projected closer Junichi Kawahara isn't doing well in instructional league play and now a Giants coach thinks that Kawahara is developing a fear of throwing the ball due to him feeling the pressure of the closer's position coupled with his lackluster 2003 after Kawahara begged out of a bullpen session....The Giants have hired a pro soccer conditioning coach as part of their campaign to reduce injuries in 2004....Masahiro Kawai's 514 sac bunts will be recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records....Catcher Shinnosuke Abe hurt his left ankle during a workout and is likely to miss the rest of the team's fall camp.

Hanshin Spokesmen from eight other clubs indicated that they have zero interest in free agent righthander Hideki Irabu. And there has been no interest expressed so far by any MLB team except, if Sports Nippon is correct, Kansas City. So the jellyfish may have no recourse but to take the Tigers' offer....A weekly gossip magazine (Friday, I'm assuming) says that manager Senichi Hoshino will marry much younger enka (a kind of Japanese country music, to really oversimplify it) superstar Fuyumi Sakamoto. Your humble writer is a fan of the beautiful Wakayama Prefecture songbird. She played catcher on her high school's softball team. However, Hoshino, while not confirming or denying the rumor, was angry at the item. "That's really a rude thing to print about her and me. I'm going to really let them have it."

Chunichi Closer Akinori Otsuka said that he wants to go to MLB, providing that "they meet my conditions." Those conditions, according to Chunichi Sports, are a team in a major metropolitan city, he gets the closer's role and the money has to be there. Otsuka's name came up last season in relation to the Dodgers, Texas and Boston, but that was before the emergence of Eric Gagne. However, he could end up finishing games for the other two clubs. Otsuka is reportedly close to a final decision and could issue it in the next few days. By the way, Otsuka refused a suggestion of going into the starting rotation....Head coach Takemasa Suzuki was given a three year deal, a rare occurence. He will be paid about $320,000 a season and pocketed a $180,000 signing bonus. One has to think that this kind of deal for Suzuki was due to a demand from manager Hiromitsu Ochiai when he was negotiating his pact.

Hiroshima To help infielder Kazuki Fukuchi and catcher Kazuyoshi Kimura with their throwing, they will be pitching a lot of batting practice. It is hoped by coaches that this will give each man greater target focus and strengthen their arms.

Yokohama Nobody passed a tryout of players released by other teams....Eddie Gaillard and Tyrone Woods will definitely staying with the team, but Steve Cox, as had been reported earlier, will have his contract bought out and be released. The Stars will then go out and acquire two more pitchers from the states. Domingo Guzman is still on the bubble.

Daiei While an earlier press report indicated that Hawks management didn't want to see second baseman Tadahito Iguchi leave but were nonetheless resigned to the inevitable and would post him anyway, now they have done a 180 on that and now claim that the team may not put the standout infielder on the auction block afterall. Iguchi won't be eligible for free agency until 2006. A New York Daily News report indicated that the Mets are contemplating acquiring Iguchi should be be put up for bid....Reliever Hirokazu Watanabe, 37, infielder Tomoyoshi Sekiya, 24, and outfielders Motoi Okoshi, 32, and Tadashi Matsuda, 28, will be tendered as trade bait. Watanabe has been increasingly ineffective over the last two seasons while the others garnered little playing time up to this point in their careers.

Kintetsu Negotiations between leftfielder Tuffy Rhodes and the Buffs have completely broken off, setting the stage for the former Cub to head for the Giants. Yomiuri is reportedly ready to give Rhodes a three year deal for about $4.5 million a season, a 50% increase over what he made in 2003, or $6.5 million for each of two seasons, depending on which report you want to believe. Kintetsu continued to insist on a one year contract and that effectively put the kabosh on further bargaining. Kintetsu has found a way to get slugging help overseas, having had Chuck Manuel, Dick Davis and Ralph Bryant with them at one time or another before Rhodes joined up. And now they have to scramble for another, since the hole Rhodes leaves will assure that the Osaka club could become a second division outfit unless they can fill it. They have gone from first place in 2001 to second in 2002 and then to third in 2003, not an encouraging trend....Centerfielder Naoyuki Omura will stay with the team, according to Sankei Sports. He reportedly had feelers from three unnamed MLB nines, but says that he had no interest in crossing the Pacific. Part of that was due to how So Taguchi has struggled in the big leagues. He will apparently earn a $350,000 raise to a little over a million.

Nippon Ham The Fighters are apparently going to make a serious run at Tsuyoshi Shinjo. Trey Hillman managed Shinjo in a Hawaiian winter league for the Hilo Stars, so the former Rangers farm director is familiar with the pretty boy outfielder. It is also thought that Yokohama is no longer interested in him and Yomiuri had withdrawn as well, so they should be able to obtain the Fukuoka native relatively cheaply....Players got a lecture Friday on living in Sapporo, everything with how to deal with the cold weather to what the city and the people there are like. Almost none of the players will be moving their families there, so most will be on their own during the season.

Orix The Mariners hired Paul Molitor as its hitting instructor, meaning that it may be more likely Leon Lee, who was also a leading candidate for that job, is more likely to remain in Japan. But we'll see.

Miscellaneous According to ESPN, Cuba National Team pitching ace Maels Rodriguez may have defected to an unnamed "third country," perhaps El Salvador, along with the club' second baseman. Rodriguez has been clocked at 100mph and, at 24, is still young. If this is true, he could become the top MLB free agent this offseason. See more on this story Here.

Asian Olympic Qualifying Tournament Jim Lefebvre lead China to a victory in their first game, beating the Phillipines 7-1 with a running game that included six steals. Lefebvre is the head coach of the Chinese squad.....Pakistan was also victorious, whipping Indonesia 11-5. Pakistan is helmed by former Hanshin hurler Hirotoshi Watanabe and collected 12 hits and stole 12 bases. Watanabe revealed, though, that his players had trouble picking up their signs properly....To prevent injuries that may be suffered as a result of rough play in the tourney, Japanese infielders will wear eight inch high leg guards during games. Manager Shigeo Nagashima said that in international tournaments aren't well policed and thus he wants to protect his charges' ankles. Yakult shortstop Shinya Miyamoto, who is stationed at second for the Japanese side, has already been using leg guards since the middle of this past season.

In the News

Yakuza Members of Hanshin Fan Club Arrested

See story at: Mainichi Shimbun Article

Valentine Coming to Japan

See story at: Japan Times Article

Cubans Cheered Americans During Baseball Tourney

See story at: Princeton Daily Clarion Article

Yomiuri Refugee May Gets Award

See story at: Article

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