/

Dragons ink former Japan star Tamura on developmental deal

Kyodo

Outfielder Hitoshi Tamura, a key contributor on Japan’s 2006 World Baseball Classic championship team, has joined the Chunichi Dragons on a developmental contract, the Central League club said Friday.

The 38-year-old Tamura, who was released by the Yokohama BayStars in December, will receive an estimated ¥3 million ($25,500) and wear No. 215. He is not eligible to play in regular-season games with the first team unless he is signed to a standard contract and added to Chunichi’s 70-man roster.

“I feel happy to be able to play baseball,” Tamura told a press conference at Nagoya Stadium, the club’s minor league park. “I want to earn promotion to the first team as quickly as I can so I can contribute.”

Tamura played in just four games last season for Yokohama and has not played 100 games since he was with the Pacific League’s Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in 2011.

In 2007, the Dragons signed struggling third baseman Norihiro Nakamura to the same kind of contract after he left the Orix Buffaloes in a contract dispute. After batting .232 in 85 games for Orix in 2006, few teams wanted to give Nakamura a tryout. But he batted .293 with 20 homers in 2007 for the Dragons and was that year’s Japan Series MVP.