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Mets close in on Kazuo

Kyodo

The New York Mets are on the verge of reaching a deal with free-agent infielder Kazuo Matsui, who played 10 years as the shortstop for the Seibu Lions, a number of local media reports said Friday.

News photoShortstop Kazuo Matsui works out Thursday at the Seibu Lions’ training facility in
Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture. Matsui, a free agent after playing 10 season in Japan, is close to
signing a contract with the New York Mets, according to reports.

According to the online edition of the New York Post, “Matsui could be a Met within 24 hours” as Mets general manager Jim Duquette confirmed the club made a reported three-year, $23 million (about 2.5 billion yen) offer and are waiting to hear back in the next day or two.

The latest rumors say the switch-hitting Matsui is guaranteed a position at shortstop with the Mets because Jose Reyes will be moving to second base under the 20-year-old’s consent, while it is unlikely the New York Yankees will consider shifting Derek Jeter.

The Newark Star-Ledger quoted Duquette as saying “we feel like we’re moving forward in a positive direction on the discussions” and another unnamed Mets officials adding “we’re very close” to signing Matsui to an amount not even the Los Angels Dodgers nor the Anaheim Angeles are close to matching.

The Mets are said to be pressing Arn Tellem, Matsui’s agent, for a quick response.

Matsui declared free agency Oct. 28 and had said Thursday he had narrowed his choices on where to play next season to four major league teams without revealing any names.

Ichiro speak to kids

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki completed one of two jobs he came back to Japan for when he presented medals to the winning team after the final of the “Ichiro Cup” boys league championship Saturday.

Ichiro, who flew back to his home country for the first time in 10 months a day earlier, watched the game between the Naruko Fighters and Koizumi Club as the chairman of the tournament named after him which featured 218 teams in the town of Toyoyama, Aichi Prefecture.

“When you compete, there are times you win and there are times you lose. When you lose, you should think about why you lost. When you win, you should think about how to become even stronger,” Ichiro said in his speech to the children.

During his 72-hour stay in Japan, Suzuki is also scheduled to take part in a baseball clinic.

Tigers ink hurler Morel

NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo Pref. (Kyodo) The Hanshin Tigers have signed hard-throwing right-hander Ramon Morel on a one-year deal carrying a salary of $200,000, officials of the Central League club said Saturday.

Morel, a native of the Dominican Republic and former major leaguer who played with Taiwan’s Sinon Bulls from last year, posted 23 saves with a 4-2 record and a 0.90 ERA in 48 games this past season.

Hanshin said it will consider using Morel in middle relief or as a closer.

Fighters eye MLB coach

Kyodo News The Nippon Ham Fighters are set to sign Mike Brown to a contract for next season as the club’s minor-league pitching coach and will make the official announcement in the next couple of days, officials of the Pacific League team said Saturday.

The 44-year-old Brown, who posted 12 wins with teams including the Boston Red Sox in his playing days, has had coaching experience with the Cleveland Indians since 2002 as well as with the minor-league affiliate of the New York Yankees.

The Fighters are managed by American Trey Hillman.