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Veteran Johjima accepts four-year offer from Tigers

Kyodo

Kenji Johjima on Tuesday agreed to join the Hanshin Tigers on a four-year deal worth an estimated ¥2 billion plus performance related bonuses after holding a second round of talks with the Central League club in Fukuoka.

The 33-year-old catcher last week exercised an opt-out clause in his contract with the Seattle Mariners to return to Japan after injuries and lack of production limited him to 71 games this past season and 112 games in 2008.

“Hanshin was the first team to come after me and the first to set up talks,” said Johjima.

“It gives me confidence when I think about the support from the Hanshin fans at Koshien, which for me has been the opposition’s home ground until now.”

Hanshin senior director Senichi Hoshino said, “Adding a passionate player like Johjima to the roster will give the team an extra lift. I believe he will deliver results.”

The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks had also expressed interest in bringing Johjima back to the club he played for before moving to North America.

“I am happy that Softbank wanted me but there is no turning back. Posting great results for Hanshin is the only thing on my mind now,” said Johjima.

Softbank Hawks chairman Sadaharu Oh, who had asked Johjima to rejoin the team, was disappointed with the move.

“I wanted him to battle for the championship as a Hawks player so it is a pity,” said former Hawks manager Oh. “Still, it is his decision and he will add something special to Japanese baseball so I hope he does well.”

Johjima batted .268 during his four seasons with the Mariners, hitting 48 home runs and driving in 198 runs in 462 games.

The only Japanese-born catcher who has played in the major leagues, Johjima batted .299 with 211 home runs and 699 RBIs in 1,117 games during 11 years with the Hawks.

The only Japanese-born catcher who has played in the major leagues, Johjima batted .299 with 211 home runs and 699 RBIs in 1,117 games during 11 years with the Hawks.

In his successful stint with the Hawks, Johjima helped the team win the Japan Series in 1999 and 2003 while winning seven consecutive Gold Gloves through 2005.