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Lotte Marines deputy owner Akio Shigemitsu said Monday he will try to bring back Bobby Valentine as a replacement for manager Koji Yamamoto who is set to retire at the end of the season.

News photoBobby Valentine, who managed Chiba Lotte in 1995, is being pursed by the club to return to pilot the Marines again next season.

“I’ve heard that Valentine would like to manage in Japan again. So we are focusing on him as the No. 1 prospect,” Shigemitsu said after a meeting with general manager Tomoichi Kawakita.

Valentine led the Marines to second place in the Pacific League in 1995 but was fired at the end of the season. He led the New York Mets to the National League pennant in 2000 but was fired after the Mets’ poor performance last year.

Shigemitsu, who is on friendly terms with Valentine, met with him this past summer while visiting the U.S. He will have to compete with some major league teams which apparently are also interested in the 53-year-old Valentine for next season.

Aside from Valentine, the Chiba-based club has two candidates, including one with experience as a manager.

Ito takes over

Seibu Lions veteran catcher Tsutomu Ito, who retired at the end of the team’s regular season, was formally introduced as the new manager of the Pacific League club on Tuesday.

Dragons after Ochiai

NAGOYA (Kyodo) The Chunichi Dragons are set to appoint Hiromitsu Ochiai as the Central League club’s manager, Chunichi officials said Tuesday.

Chunichi has been in negotiations with Ochiai, 49, and expects to officially unveil the former Dragons legend as the team’s new boss on Wednesday.

Chunichi has been struggling to find an appropriate replacement for Hisashi Yamada, who was fired Sept. 9 after the club’s dismal performance this season.

Ochiai, who has no coaching experience, joined the Orions (now Lotte Marines) in 1979 as a third-round draft pick before stints with Chunichi, the Yomiuri Giants and Nippon Ham Fighters.

Ochiai, who won the triple crown three times with the Dragons, retired in 1998 at the age of 44.

Saito wins 20th

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Daiei Hawks right-hander Kazumi Saito went the distance with 11 strikeouts to post his 20th decision of the season, becoming the first Pacific League pitcher in 18 years to achieve the feat in a 4-1 triumph over the Lotte Marines on Tuesday.

Saito (20-3), who was not at his best but good enough for the win, limited the visiting team to one run over six innings at Fukuoka Dome en route to his fifth complete game of the season.

He became the first pitcher to post 20 wins since Yoshinori Sato marked 21 with the Hankyu Braves (now Orix BlueWave) in 1985. Sato, who walked three and yielded eight hits, also matched Seibu Lions’ Daisuke Matsuzaka for the league’s top ERA at 2.83.

BlueWave 9, Buffaloes 7 (11)

At Yahoo BB Stadium in Kobe, Takashi Miwa drilled three-run homer with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning, lifting Orix to a “sayonara” victory over Kintetsu.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Giants 6, Tigers 2

At Koshien Stadium, Kazuhiro Kiyohara hit a two-run blast to finish of the regular season with a bang and Daisuke Motoki singled home the game winner in the fifth as Yomiuri beat league champion Hanshin.

Swallows 6, Carp 3

At Jingu Stadium, Alex Ramirez homered and drove in a pair of runs and pitcher Katsutoshi Ishido hit a two-run single to left as Yakult erupted for five runs in the opening frame en route to a victory over Hiroshima.

Dragons 8, BayStars 2

At Yokohama Stadium, Motonobu Tanishige homered twice and had three RBIs and Alex Ochoa went 4-for-4 and drove in four runs for Chunichi, which secured at least third place with a win over the BayStars.

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