Yokohama BayStars president Susumu Minegishi said Wednesday the Central League club will be looking to sign Kazuhiro Sasaki to a contract for this season as soon as he is formally released by the Seattle Mariners.

News photoKazuhiro Sasaki speaks to the media at a press conference in Seattle.

“There’s no reason to wait. We want to get in touch with him,” said Minegishi, hinting that the BayStars are hoping to begin negotiations early next month once the Mariners all-time saves leader clears waivers.

On Tuesday, the 35-year-old Sasaki, who is leaving the Mariners to spend more time with his family in Japan, signed papers in Seattle to void his contract after saying he hopes no other major league club tries to claim him during the three-day waiver period.

Sasaki’s announcement last week about his intention to leave the majors with one year remaining on his contract and restart his playing career in Japan prompted speculation that he will rejoin the BayStars, his team for 10 years from 1990.

The Yomiuri Giants also showed interest but general manager Hideaki Miyama said, “We’ll wait 48 hours and then think about what steps to take. We have no idea what Sasaki’s desires are and can’t say anything at this point.”

Meanwhile, Nippon Ham Fighters executive Kesaharu Misawa said, “We are interested and have been doing some investigating. We’ll announce our plans once he is given his unconditional release.”

After joining the Mariners on a free-agent deal in 2000, the right-hander was named the American League Rookie of the Year, but suffered from a string of injuries last season and finished with just 10 saves and a 4.05 ERA in 35 games.

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