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The Hanshin Tigers said Friday they have released lefty Trey Moore from the Central League team.

Team president Katsuyoshi Nozaki said the decision to let Moore go was made after considering his value to the entire makeup of the Central League champion team.

The 31-year-old Moore, a former player for the Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos, had not made any concrete moves to stay on with the Tigers for 2004, team officials said.

Newly appointed manager Akinobu Okada said former manager Senichi Hoshino had become used to Moore’s poor performances, adding that “If he were to win seven or eight games next season, it would be better to rely on young talent.”

Moore went 10-6 with a 4.35 ERA in 21 games this past season.

Elsewhere, the Yokohama BayStars fired infielder Steve Cox and said they would consider acquiring the Texas native Moore.

The BayStars, who finished the season with the league’s worst team ERA of 4.80, are seeking foreign recruitments to bolster their pitching staff.

“Moore has done a lot in Japan and he is one of our choices,” a Yokohama official said about the lefty, who posted 20 wins over two seasons with the Tigers and helped lead the team to its first league title in 18 years.

Cox, who signed a $2.75 million (an estimated 300 million yen), three-year deal with the BayStars last off-season, fell way below expectations when he hurt his right knee during spring training this year and sat out most of the season.

Cox, formerly with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, was expected to bat cleanup but after his injury appeared in just 15 games and finished with a .200 average with one home run and seven RBIs.

The BayStars said they will pay Cox’s salary for next season and compensate him for the third year of his contract.

Lotte to contact Lee

NARITA (Kyodo) Lotte Marines newly appointed manager Bobby Valentine said Friday the Pacific League club will make contact with South Korean slugger Lee Seung Yeop in an attempt to sign the infielder to a deal.

Along with the possible joining of Lee, who marked 56 home runs to set a new Asian single-season record this year, infielder Jose Fernandez would be released, though he hit .303 with 32 homers and 100 RBIs for the Marines in 2003.

Little Matsui to Mets?

NEW YORK (Kyodo) The New York Mets appear willing to sign free agent shortstop Kazuo Matsui rather than lure second baseman Luis Castillo from the Florida Marlins, according to several U.S. newspaper reports on Thursday.

The indication is that the Mets think they might get more bang for their buck by acquiring Matsui than with free agent Castillo, whose performance during the World Series was subpar, a report in the Star-Ledger said.

The New York Post said that the Mets’ $14 million, three-year offer for Castillo is less than the $15.5 million contract his current team is willing to provide him for the same period, suggesting the Mets are not serious about his acquisition.

In contrast, the Mets might be a lot more inclined, the Post report said, to spend $21 million on a three-year deal for Matsui, while giving him his choice of shortstop and shifting the Mets’ current shortstop Jose Reyes to second base.

The New York Yankees, home to countryman Hideki Matsui, would also ante up the bid — with the hopes of moving Alfonso Soriano to the outfield and having “Little Matsui” takeover at second.

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