• The Associated Press

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Tatsunori Hara took responsibility Friday for his team’s dismal showing this year, stepping down as manager of the Yomiuri Giants.

News photoTatsunori Hara

As the 45-year-old Hara told reporters at a press conference in Tokyo that he was resigning, Yomiuri owner Tsuneo Watanabe introduced former Giants pitcher Tsuneo Horiuchi as the new manager.

“As manager, I had no choice but to take responsibility,” said a teary eyed Hara. “This is a team that is revered by its fans and is expected to win. We had very talented players this season but I was unable to get them to where we needed to be.”

Hara said he would remain the team’s manager for the remaining six games of the 2003 season.

“I promise to show the Giants spirit for the remainder of the season,” added Ha- ra. “I’m sorry for the results we had this season but hope our fans will continue to support this great ballclub in the future.”

The Giants, who won the Japan Series last season in Hara’s first year at the helm, have struggled this year in the absence of Hideki Matsui, who signed with the New York Yankees in the offseason.

Heading into this weekend’s games, the Giants sat in fourth place in the Central League standings with a 67-65 record, 16 games behind the league champion Hanshin Tigers.

With the highest payroll in Japanese baseball, there is tremendous pressure on Japan’s most popular team to win the league title.

But the Giants were virtually out of the pennant chase by midseason as the rival Tigers opened up a 14 1/2 game lead at the All-Star break en route to their first pennant in 18 seasons.

The announcement ended days of speculation that Hara would step down.

Stories relating to Hara’s imminent resignation have dominated the front pages of Japan’s sports newspapers for the past several days as reporters camped outside the homes of both the former Yomiuri star player and Watanabe.

When Matsui signed with the Yankees, the Giants wasted little time in signing Roberto Petagine to a record $6 million contract.

But the 32-year-old Venezuelan, who hit 160 homers over four seasons with the Yakult Swallows before signing with Yomiuri, struggled with a series of injuries and spent most of the first half on the bench.

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