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Hawks, pitcher Saito start contract talks: source

Kyodo

The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks have entered contract talks with injury-prone Kazumi Saito, once one of the best pitchers in Japan, for next season, a senior club official said Saturday.

The 32-year-old right-hander has been sidelined with shoulder problems since he pitched in the Climax Series playoffs in October 2007.

“We just started negotiations with Saito,” player development director Itaru Kobayashi said. “He hasn’t pitched for three years, but we intend to support his comeback efforts as long as he’ll be able to pitch in the future.”

Saito had the third shoulder surgery of his career in February and is now with the Hawks’ farm team on an extended rehab assignment.

Saito might even be removed from the 70-man roster if he has to miss next season as well.

He has a 79-23 record with a 3.33 ERA in 150 games between 1997 and 2007.