Seibu Lions right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yomiuri Giants outfielder Yoshinobu Takahashi were among 33 professional players recommended Thursday for the Japanese national baseball team for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Sapporo this fall.
At a selection committee meeting, Nippon Professional Baseball chose Matsuzaka and 15 other hurlers from 10 teams, including Koji Uehara of the Yomiuri Giants and Kei Igawa of the Hanshin Tigers as candidates for starters.
Rookie pitchers Hiroshi Kisanuki of Yomiuri and Tsuyoshi Wada of the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks were also recommended for Japan’s “Dream Team” for next year’s Athens Olympics.
Makoto Imaoka of Hanshin and Michihiro Ogasawara of the Nippon Ham Fighters, the current leaders in the Central and Pacific league-batting categories, respectively, were among the infielders recommended, along with Norihiro Nakamura of the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and Kazuo Matsui of the Lions.
Joining Takahashi as outfielders are Kosuke Fukudome of the Chunichi Dragons and Yoshitomo Tani of the Orix BlueWave.
But Japan’s major leaguers, including Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees and Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners, were excluded as Major League Baseball does not allow them to play in Olympic qualifiers or the Games.
A formal decision on a 22-member final team roster is expected to be announced on Sept. 29.
While the Asian qualifier will begin on Oct. 31, seeded Japan will appear in the final round to be contested by four teams starting on Nov. 5 in chase of one of the two Asian berths.
Team manager Shigeo Nagashima said, “We have put the first priority on victory and selected them based on their records in the current season. We will put the most emphasis on the pitching staff in the final analysis. True, it is not the real Dream Team (since major leaguers are not among those recommended), we must clear the round.”
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