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No surprise: Iwase to return to Dragons next season

Kyodo

Chunichi Dragons ace closer Hitoki Iwase will be returning to the 2010 Central League champions for an unchanged ¥430 million next season.

Iwase, 36, remained as the highest paid Japanese player along with the Yomiuri Giants’ Michihiro Ogasawara after renewing his contract at the team office on Wednesday. The Giants gave Ogasawara a ¥50 million raise last week.

“Over the past two years, I haven’t been pitching the way I wanted toward the end of the season,” Iwase said. “More than ever, I want to take better care of my body and contribute to hopefully defending the title next season.”

Iwase, who enters the third year of a four-year, salary-adjustable deal next season, will be the highest paid Japanese pitcher for the fifth consecutive year.

Iwase posted a Japanese-baseball high 42 saves with a 2.25 ERA in 54 appearances — the 12th straight season he has played in more than 50 games — to help lead Chunichi to the league pennant.

In June, he became the first left-hander to reach 250 career saves and third pitcher overall to accomplish the feat. He has a 12-season total of 276 saves.

Iwase is on course to surpass the all-time saves record of 286 held by Shingo Takatsu next season and could possibly reach 300 by the end of his campaign.

In other transactions, Chiba Lotte Marines second-baseman Tadahito Iguchi re-signed for the same ¥180 million plus incentives. He has one year left on a three-year deal with the 2010 Japan Series champions.

Former major leaguer Iguchi hit .294 with 17 home runs and 103 RBIs in 143 games this year.

“I want to contribute much more next year and take my game to a higher level. I hope we can win the Pacific League pennant this time and the Japan Series,” Iguchi said.

“I’m not sure who will fill the gap at shortstop but I have to take the lead,” he said, referring to the hole left vacant by Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who is set to sign a deal with the Minnesota Twins.

Sakamoto gets raise

Kyodo News

Yomiuri’s All-Star shortstop Hayato Sakamoto received a ¥40 million pay raise to ¥120 million Wednesday, becoming the first Giant since Hideki Matsui to top the ¥100 million mark in his fifth year out of high school.

“I’m happy with the contract,” Sakamoto said. “Next year, I want to cut down on my errors and shoot for .300 and becoming Japan Series champions again.”

The 21-year-old Sakamoto played every inning of every regular season game for the Giants, who lost to the Chunichi Dragons in the second phase of the Central League Climax Series. He hit .281 with 31 homers and 85 RBIs.