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Fighters, Lions draft’s big winners

Kyodo News

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters won the rights to negotiate a contract with highly touted Waseda University right-hander Yuki Saito after four clubs named him in the first round of bids in the Japanese baseball draft on Thursday.

Fighters president Junichi Fujii drew the lucky ticket for Saito from the lottery box of four teams, which also included the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, the Chiba Lotte Marines and the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.

“I am very nervous and excited,” said Fighters manager Masataka Nashida about choosing Saito, who led Waseda Jitsugyo to its first national high school baseball championship title in 2006.

“He can be part of the starting rotation or pitch out of the bullpen. He is a clever type of pitcher who possesses loads of potential,” Nashida said.

Seibu Lions manager Hisanobu Watanabe drew the winning ticket out of six clubs to start talks with Waseda right-hander Tatsuya Oishi, while the Yomiuri Giants were the lone team to pick Chuo University right-handed flamethrower Hirokazu Sawamura — known for his blazing fastball.

It was the second year in a row Watanabe won the lottery against five teams after having picked lefty Yusei Kikuchi in last year’s draft.

“It’s unbelievable. I was the last to draw, so I was praying that the winning ticket would be left. Oishi is a big-scale player and I am thinking of using him as a starter. I want him to become a super ace in Japanese baseball,” Watanabe said.

The Hiroshima Carp, which failed in their bid for Oishi, chose Waseda’s Yuya Fukui, making it the first time in the history of the amateur draft that three pitchers from the same team were selected in the first round.

Newly appointed Tohoku Rakuten Eagles manager Senichi Hoshino, who also had been bidding for Oishi, won the negotiation rights to Hachinohe University southpaw Takahiro Shiomi.

“This is my first time participating in the draft in a while, so I was feeling really nervous. We missed out on getting Oishi but in a sense it was good to have picked Shiomi. I had my eye on him as a lefty pitcher,” said Hoshino.

The Chunichi Dragons skipped the draw and chose to sit at the negotiation table with Bukkyo University left-hander Yudai Ono.

The Hanshin Tigers named Tokaidai Sagami’s Shinta Hifumi, who led the Kanagawa high school to a runnerup finish at this summer’s National High School Baseball Championship, in the second round.

The Orix Buffaloes picked Akashi Red Soldiers outfielder Masato Fukae of the Kansai Independent League in the fifth round, while Shuhei Fujiya of the University of Southern California went to Lotte in the sixth round.

A total of 68 players were selected in this year’s amateur draft.