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Kanemura hit with fine, suspension

Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters right-hander Satoru Kanemura received a suspension until the end of the playoffs and a 2 million yen fine Monday for criticizing the decision of team manager Trey Hillman, officials of the Pacific League club said.

Nippon Ham removed Kanemura from the active roster the same day, following the 30-year-old’s comments from the previous day in which he said that he would “never forgive” Hillman for taking him off the mound in the fifth inning with a chance to win his 10th decision in the team’s game against Chiba Lotte.

The Fighters had been leading the game 4-1 when Hillman gave the order for Kanemura to leave the mound with two outs and the bases loaded, and Lotte rallied off reliever Takehiko Oshimoto to tie the score the same frame before winning the game on Benny Agbayani’s grand slam in the seventh.

Upset that he missed out on double-digit wins for the fifth season in a row, Kanemura said after the game, “I’ll never forgive him. He is a foreign manager, so he probably doesn’t care about individual stats. I don’t even want to see his face.”

Kanemura later apologized to team chief supervisor Toshimasa Shimada for the remark, but the Nippon Ham official was not convinced with just a slap on the wrist.

“The punishment must be severe for an ace pitcher (like Kanemura) whose job is to lead the pitching staff, when he criticizes the team manager,” Shimada said. “I think that for him to make such a comment about individual stats at this time (when the team is vying for first place) is sad,” Shimada added.

“As someone who should know better as a member of society, I have done a shameful thing. I think this was a gracious act of them, considering that they could have easily fired me. I sincerely accept my punishment,” Kanemura said.

The team will reconsider Kanemura’s suspension if Nippon Ham reaches next month’s the Japan Series, officials said.

Hillman said that no one is immune to mistakes.

“I’m sure Kanemura really wanted to win,” Hillman said.

Nippon Ham, the Seibu Lions and Softbank Hawks have all booked spots in the playoffs but are battling for first place to win a bye into the second stage.

Lions can clinch

The front-running Seibu Lions, who have a winning percentage just a fraction better than the second-place Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, have a chance on Tuesday to clinch first place in the Pacific League to receive a bye in the first stage of the next month’s playoffs.

Seibu has a .598 winning percentage, against Nippon Ham’s .597, while the third-place Softbank Hawks are two games behind the two teams with a .586 mark.

If Seibu beats the Chiba Lotte Marines while Nippon Ham loses to Softbank on Tuesday, Seibu would finish in first place and start in the second stage of the playoffs with a one-win advantage in the decisive round.

Tanaka tapped

The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles acquired the rights to negotiate a contract with Komadai Tomakomai right-hander Masahiro Tanaka in the amateur high school baseball draft on Monday.

Rakuten won the four-party lottery for Tanaka, who helped Komadai Tomakomai finish runnerup at the national high school baseball championship in August, after the Yokohama BayStars, the Orix Buffaloes and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters also named him in the first round of bids.

“Rakuten will be the next stage for my baseball career. It’s a new team, so I want to become a player who can help shape Rakuten’s history,” Tanaka said.

He throws a fastball in the 150-kilometer-per-hour range and a sharp slider.

“I’m so glad that our club president drew a winning ticket. If I went to the draw, the outcome would’ve been disappointing,” Rakuten manager Katsuya Nomura said. “I want him to become a pitcher with a long career.”

Nomura also said that Tanaka is still young, so he wants to help the 17-year-old develop his skills.

Aikodai Meiden slugger Naomichi Donoue was selected by three teams in the first round and the lottery result gave the Chunichi Dragons the negotiating rights for the shortstop, whose father Terashi used to play for Chunichi.

Donoue has hit 55 home runs in high school. His older brother Takehiro is also with Chunichi.

Meanwhile, Yaeyama Shoko right-hander Yuta Omine will sit at the negotiating table with the Chiba Lotte Marines, who won the lottery over the Softbank Hawks.