• Kyodo


Daiei Hawks infielder Nobuhiko Matsunaka, who won the league’s RBI title this season with 123 RBIs, has asked for a renegotiation on a proposal of a 300 million yen annual salary from the Pacific League club, baseball sources said Sunday.

News photoNobuhiko Matsunaka

Matsunaka has been offered a 141 million yen pay raise but said he deserves a lot more for his efforts. Despite a right-knee injury, he batted .324 with 30 homers in 135 games as the cleanup man to help the team capture its third PL title and first Japan Series championship in four years.

“This year we won the Japan Series. This is something I can say with confidence. There are some things that I won’t budge on,” said the 30-year-old.

“I never felt as much pressure than I did while playing this year. I also want the club to take into consideration my statistics over the past few years,” Matsunaka said.

Matsunaka is scheduled for a second round of talks with the club at the end of January after he returns from training in Guam.

On Saturday, teammate Kenji Jojima became the highest-paid catcher in Japanese baseball when he re-signed for an annual salary of 400 million yen, 100 million yen more than veteran catcher Atsuya Furuta of the Yakult Swallows, while the Hawks resigned infielder Tadahito Iguchi for 240 million yen next season — triple his 2003 salary.

Linares to return

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Cuban infielder Omar Linares will come back to Japan next month and play another season with the Chunichi Dragons, Chunichi general manager Junnosuke Nishikawa said upon his return from Cuba on Saturday.

According to Nishikawa, Linares, the first Cuban to play for a pro baseball club outside the Caribbean country, received permission from the Cuban Baseball Federation to renew his contract with the Central League club for the 2004 season.

Linares, who helped Cuba win two Olympic gold medals in 1992 and 1996 before he was acquired by the Dragons in the summer of 2002, was promoted to the top team in June this year after having injured his knee during spring training and opened the season in the minor leagues.

Also, Nishikawa revealed the Japanese national team’s plans to host an international friendly game against Cuba and possibly Taiwan at Tokyo Dome on July 13 or 14 next year as a tuneup for the Athens Olympics.

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