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Seven Fighters earn Golden Gloves

Kyodo News

Right fielder Atsunori Inaba featured among a club record seven players from the Pacific League champion Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters to win Golden Glove awards for their stellar defensive performances on Tuesday.

It was the most Golden Gloves won by a team since the 1978 Hanshin Tigers and 1992 Seibu Lions, both of whom matched a Japanese baseball record with eight players winning the award.

The Japan Series-winning Yomiuri Giants had three Golden Glove recipients, including right-hander Dicky Gonzalez who was the first foreign player to receive the honor since Taiwanese pitcher Kaku Taigen (Seibu Lions) in 1992.

Giants center fielder Tetsuya Matsumoto, who joined the team in 2007 in the draft for prospects, was honored for the first time along with right fielder Yoshiyuki Kamei.

BASEBALL NPB GOLDEN GLOVE WINNERS

CENTRAL LEAGUE

PitcherDicky Gonzalez, Giants (1)

CatcherMotonobu Tanishige, Dragon (4)

First baseKenta Kurihara, Carp (2)

Second baseMasahiro Araki, Dragons (6)

Thirs baseShinya Miyamoto, Swallows (1)

ShortstopHirokazu Ibata, Dragons (6)

OutfieldersNorichika Aoki, Swallows (4);

  Tetsuya Matsumoto, Giants (1);

  Yoshiyuki Kamei, Giants (1)

PACIFIC LEAGUE

PitcherHideaki Wakui, Lions (1)

CatcherShinya Tsuruoka, Fighters (1)

First baseShinji Takahashi, Fighters (1)

Second baseKensuke Tanaka, Fighters (4)

Third baseEiichi Koyano, Fighters (1)

ShortstopMakoto Kaneko, Fighters (1)

OutfieldersYoshio Itoi, Fighters (1);

  Tomotaka Sakaguchi, Buffaloes (1);

  Atsunori Inaba, Fighters (4)

The Chunichi Dragons also had three players claim the award, with catcher Motonobu Tanishige winning his fourth and second baseman Masahiro Araki and shortstop Hirokazu Ibata getting top votes for the sixth consecutive year.

Tokyo Yakult Swallows third baseman Shinya Miyamoto was selected for the sixth time for his defense as a shortstop and his seventh time overall — the most among all of the recipients.

Hiroshima Carp first baseman Kenta Kurihara won for the second time, while Yakult center fielder Norichika Aoki picked up his fourth award.

Fighters catcher Shinya Tsuruoka, second baseman Shinji Takahashi, third baseman Eiichi Koyano and center fielder Yoshio Itoi were each first-time recipients for Nippon Ham.

Fighters shortstop Makoto Kaneko, meanwhile, was awarded for the third time overall, while Inaba and second baseman Kensuke Tanaka won for the fourth time.

Saitama Seibu Lions right-hander Hideaki Wakui was named for the first time while Orix Buffaloes center fielder Tomotaka Sakaguchi claimed his second Golden Glove honor.

Matsui a free agent

CHICAGO (Kyodo) World Series MVP Hideki Matsui, who concluded the last year of a four-year, $52 million contract with the New York Yankees, became a free agent on Monday.

The Yankees have the exclusive right to table their offers to Matsui until Nov. 19. If he is unable strike a deal by then, Matsui can negotiate with other teams, according to baseball sources.

Matsui, who joined the Yankees in 2003, batted .274 with 28 homers and 90 RBIs in 142 games this year.

He drove in six runs in the decisive Game 6 of the World Series and had three home runs and eight RBIs in six games to become the first Japanese-born player to win the Series MVP award.

Matsui, an outfielder by trade, was used as a designated hitter this past season and did not play defense because of bad knees. The 35-year-old has already made it clear that he would like to return to the Yankees next season.

However, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has not leaned one way or the other on whether the team will try to bring Matsui back.

“He’s a great player. When we went to Japan (in 2002) and signed him, it was with the dream that he’d come over and help us win a World Series. Now that he’s done it, I couldn’t be happier for him or for us. He’s a great player. We knew what we had when we first signed him, and that hasn’t changed just because he was named MVP of the World Series.”