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Hanshin Tigers manager Senichi Hoshino has revealed his intention to step down after the Japan Series, citing ill health.

The 56-year-old Hoshino has hinted that he might retire after the Japan Series. Team representatives said Friday an official statement will be made after the Japan Series, which begins on Saturday at Fukuoka Dome.

Hoshino, in his second season with the Central League team, guided the Tigers to their first pennant in 18 years.

In late July, Hoshino was forced to leave the Hanshin bench during a game because of unusually high blood pressure. He is also reported to have fainted during a game against the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome.

One of the most popular managers in Japanese professional baseball, Hoshino is known for his fiery temper and animated outbursts during games.

Buffs: Tuff luck

OSAKA (Kyodo) Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes slugger Tuffy Rhodes might not return to the Pacific League club for next season after the team refused to offer him a multiyear deal, baseball sources said Friday.

According to the sources, Rhodes’ agent has been in negotiations with the club for a multiyear contract but the talks apparently hit a snag when the Buffaloes offered the 35-year-old only one year — saying a multiyear deal with a foreign player has never been done before.

At the end of the 2002 season, Rhodes had a revision to his contract stipulating that he would be allowed to leave the club as a free agent after the 2003 season as long as he abandoned ideas of a multiyear deal.

The Yomiuri Giants and the Chunichi Dragons are among the teams that have already started looking into acquiring Rhodes.

Rhodes began his Japanese baseball career eight years ago with the Buffaloes and claimed the RBI title twice and the home-run title three times, including in 2001 matching the single-season home-run record originally set by Sadaharu Oh.

“Whether we decide to keep him for next year is not entirely dependent on money. The problem is if we are able to offer him a two-year deal,” a Kintetsu official said.

“We know that if we take too long in the process, there’s a danger of him being snatched up by another club. It’s a difficult situation.”

Rhodes, for his part, has said that staying with the Buffaloes, who he helped lead to the league pennant in 2001, is what he desires most but also added that business is business.

Team president Mitsuru

Nagai later denied that the club has had a breakdown in talks with Rhodes, saying, “Negotiations are still continuing and we are now waiting to hear from his side.”

Kazuo Matsui eyes MLB

TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. (Kyodo) Seibu Lions shortstop Kazuo Matsui said Thursday he has told club officials, including general manager Keiji Ono, of his wish to exercise his rights as a free agent and play in the major leagues next season.

“I told them I’d like to play in the majors,” said the 27-year-old, who was offered a reported 180 million yen bonus to re-sign with the Pacific League club for a 10th season.

“I really don’t know what I’ll do yet. I’m about fifty-fifty now. I feel like my chance is here and now, and I’m delighted to be in this position,” said Matsui, adding that the majors first struck him as a reality last year.

Matsui told reporters that he will make the decision after playing in the Olympic Asian qualifying tournament, which gets under way Oct. 31 in Sapporo.

“I got the impression that he wants to make the move to the majors,” said Ono after their meeting at the office adjacent to Seibu Dome in Saitama Prefecture.

A week ago, Matsui traveled to New York to watch an American League Champion Series game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, saying experience may help him make up his mind.

The seven-time All Star and three-time Golden Glove winner denied having any contact with an agent while staying in the United States.

Matsui, a third-round draft pick for the Lions in 1994, finished the 2003 season hitting .305 with 179 hits, 84 RBIs and 33 homers in 140 games. He led the league in hits twice, in 1999 and 2002, and in stolen bases for three straight years from 1997.

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