OSAKA — Kintetsu Buffaloes manager Masataka Nashida on Thursday ruled out the possibility that the Pacific League club will release right-hander Akinori Otsuka to enable him to negotiate with major-league clubs during the offseason.

Nashida said releasing Otsuka is an “unlikely option” after the closer failed to draw a bid from the major leagues last month, adding that he is 80-90 percent certain Kintetsu will re-sign him for the 2003 season.

“It’s still 10-20 percent possible that Otsuka will be traded to another team in Japan. But I think the best option for him is to stay with us,” Nashida said.

“The club had expected there would be financial gains by selling him through the bidding system, so it’s not easy to cut him for nothing and let him try to make it to the majors,” he said.

According to Nashida, Otsuka has yet to totally abandon his wish to play in the major leagues this year.

Otsuka was put up for auction by Kintetsu in December. However, no teams wanted to acquire Otsuka, leaving his future hanging in the balance.

Otsuka has a 13-20 career record with 120 saves in six years with Kintetsu. He finished the 2002 season at 2-1 with 22 saves and a 1.28 ERA.

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