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Free agent slugger Hideki Matsui said on Wednesday he is thankful for the interest the Boston Red Sox are showing in acquiring him for next season.

“It’s something I’m very pleased about,” said Matsui a day after choosing Arn Tellem as his agent for negotiations with major-league clubs. “The Red Sox are a team of tradition.”

Matsui, who was enjoying a game of golf with former teammates of the Japan Series champion Yomiuri Giants, also acknowledged Japanese fans’ affinity to the club because of players like Hideo Nomo who once played for the American League team.

“Nomo-san and (Tomokazu) Ohka both played there, so the fans are quite familiar with this team,” Matsui said.

Big raise for Ogata

HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) Hiroshima Carp outfielder Koichi Ogata re-signed with the Central League club Wednesday, netting a 20 million yen raise in a renewal contract.

Ogata will earn an estimated 130 million yen in 2003 after battling injuries to his right knee and ankle to complete 130 games in 2002, batting .300 with 25 homers and 73 RBIs.

“I wasn’t able to respond to the expectations my team had of me defensively. I will be in the oldest age group on the team, so next year I have to start fresh,” the 33-year-old Saga native said.

In other transactions, Nippon Ham Fighters infielder Yukio Tanaka re-signed with the Pacific League club but will receive a 5 million yen pay cut.

Tanaka, who started this year at third base but was moved into the outfield midseason, will earn 135 million yen next year. He hit .278 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs after appearing in 132 games in 2002.

Also, Nihon University right-hander Shohei Tateyama, who was a third-round draft pick of the Yakult Swallows, sealed a provisional contract with the team.

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