Former Seibu Lions skipper Tsutomu Ito is set to take over from Norifumi Nishimura as manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines, baseball sources said Thursday.
The sources said Lotte has decided to offer the job to Ito after the Marines announced Monday that Nishimura was stepping down.
Ito this season signed a two-year contract as head coach with the South Korean club Doosan Bears, but that is not expected to present an obstacle in Lotte offering him the job.
A top catcher during his playing days, Ito was the No. 1 draft pick of Seibu in 1982 and went on to play for the team until 2003. He had a career batting average of .247 with 156 home runs and 811 RBIs in 2,379 appearances for the Saitama club.
He led Seibu to the Japan Series in his first year as manager in 2004.
Ito managed the Lions through 2007 and was on the coaching staff of the Japan national team that won the World Baseball Classic for the second time in succession in 2009.
The Marines, who failed to reach the postseason for the second straight year, ended their season Tuesday with a 9-8 loss at home to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
Nishimura was expected to be fired by the Marines who finished the season 62-67, 10 games out of first. But the 52-year-old manager beat them to it, tendering his resignation which was accepted by the team.
Lions retain Watanabe
Seibu manager Hisanobu Watanabe will return in 2013 for what will be his sixth season in charge of the Lions, team president Hajime Igo said Thursday.
The 47-year-old Watanabe will be given a one-year extension, Igo said.
The Lions finished the regular season second in the Pacific League. They will host the defending Japan Series champion Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in the first stage of the Climax Series starting Saturday.
Tigers want Fujikawa
The Hanshin Tigers have asked their All-Star closer Kyuji Fujikawa to return next season and not head stateside for the major leagues.
Tigers president Nobuo Minami met with Fujikawa on Thursday, when he formally asked the 32-year-old, who has qualified for overseas free agency, to remain with the only team he has known.
Fujikawa, who was not proposed a salary for next season on this day, told Minami that he needed time to think things through.
“There’s plenty of time and I’ve got a lot to think about,” said Fujikawa, who was fourth in the Central League this season with 24 saves. “It’s not something I need to decide today or by tomorrow.”
The Tigers finished fifth, missing the postseason for the second straight year.