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Major League Baseball will not mediate in the dispute over outfielder Kevin Millar, a new Chunichi Dragons acquisition who has refused to report to spring training in an attempt to play for the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Globe reported Saturday.

“As far as our office is concerned, it remains a matter between the signed player and the Japanese club,” the daily quoted MLB spokesman Patrick Courtney as saying, noting that the MLB is not accepting Millar’s claim.

The report came on a day when spring training began in Japanese baseball, three weeks after Chunichi announced the acquisition of Millar from the Florida Marlins on a two-year contract.

Millar has officially been registered on the Chunichi roster for the 2003 season, which was announced by the Central League on Friday.

The Boston Globe also quoted Courtney as explaining the difference between Millar’s case and that between Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes infielder Norihiro Nakamura and the New York Mets.

Courtney said Nakamura came to terms on a deal with the Mets but never signed a contract before re-signing with Kintetsu, while Millar signed with Chunichi, according to the newspaper.

Spring training opens

The Yomiuri Giants began work for the defense of their Japan Series title without Hideki Matsui on Saturday as spring training started for all 12 teams in Japanese baseball.

Steady rain greeted the Giants, forcing them to have workouts at an indoor training facility in the southern resort of Miyazaki in contrast to the seven teams that set up camp in Okinawa who enjoyed a balmy day.

Just like exactly one year ago, second-year manager Tatsunori Hara went to work at 7 a.m. with the “purification” ritual of sprinkling salt and sake to the ground and other facilities being used for Yomiuri’s spring training.

“Last year, I felt like I was at the starting line. This year, I’m anxious to see how we can raise our level,” said Hara.

As a rookie manager last season, Hara steered Yomiuri to the CL title by an 11-game margin and then the Japan Series crown with a four-game sweep of the Seibu Lions.

Newly acquired Roberto Petagine, at the center of Hara’s plans offensively after Matsui’s move to the New York Yankees, looked sharp in the batting cage just three days after arriving in Japan as the Venezuelan had 99 swings and hit a string of line drives.

“If this was Tokyo Dome, many of those would have struck Nagashima,” Petagine quipped, referring to a security company’s billboard featuring the former Yomiuri manager behind the outfield stands of the team’s home stadium.

At the Hanshin Tigers’ camp in Ginoza, Okinawa Prefecture, Hideki Irabu was the focus of attention from reporters at the bullpen where he threw 55 pitches in his first spring training in Japan following a six-year stint in the major leagues.

“Everything is fine. Now that I put on the Tigers uniform, I’m ready to go out and work for the team,” Irabu said.

Orix BlueWave right-handers Makoto “Mac” Suzuki and Masato Yoshii also joined Irabu as former major leaguers who reported to the camps for their new teams with high expectations.

“I’ve got myself almost fully fit. Unlike in the United States, I feel secure here at this very early stage of spring training because I don’t have to worry about getting released so soon,” said Suzuki, who threw about 50 pitches in Hirara, Okinawa.

Elsewhere, right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka limited himself to running and light workouts in his bid to come back from an injury-plagued season as Seibu began its training schedule at Seibu Dome in Saitama Prefecture.

Norihiro Nakamura, who re-signed with the Kintetsu Buffaloes over the New York Mets after a surprise last-minute move, stuck to his early-spring routine as he engaged in batting practice by using a tee and did not face a pitcher in Hyuga, Miyazaki.

In Nago, Okinawa, nearly 100 reporters followed new Nippon Ham manager Trey Hillman, who took the mound himself to pitch in batting practice as he vigorously tackled his first day on the training ground for the Pacific League team.

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