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Three foreign players, all first basemen on Central League teams this past season, may be about to embark on a National Football League quarterback-style game of musical chairs.

Just as several signal callers in the NFL switch teams from year to year, the trio of talented sluggers here in Japan appear ready to make rotational moves to rival clubs, and none should be left standing when the music stops playing.

George Arias, Roberto Petagine and Tyrone Woods, for various reasons, are not expected to return to their respective teams in 2005, but should find work here with new employers.

Arias himself said in mid-September he did not expect to be invited back for another season with the Tigers. His statistics tailed off from 2003 when Hanshin won the CL pennant and he compiled numbers of 38 home runs, 107 RBIs and a .265 batting average.

In 2004, as the team tumbled to fourth in the standings, Arias hit .270 but with only 25 homers and 83 RBIs.

Japanese sports papers have speculated he might be headed for the Giants and Tokyo Dome, his favorite hitting park in the country where he’s banged out key hits and long balls ever since arriving to play for the Orix BlueWave in 2000.

During his two years with the BW, Arias killed the Nippon Ham Fighters at the Big Egg, did the same for Hanshin against Yomiuri and also had success in All-Star games and exhibitions against the visiting New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays this past March at the T.D.

The lefthand-hitting Petagine had a good year with the Giants but was platooned throughout the early part of the season with the right-handed Kazuhiro Kiyohara who was pursuing career milestones of 2,000 hits and 500 home runs.

Peta finished with a .290 average, 29 homers and 84 RBIs in only 117 games. Had he played the entire 138-game schedule, his numbers would have been more like 34 home runs and 99 RBIs and probably higher, because he only had one at-bat as a pinch hitter in many of those games.

However, it is not likely the Giants would pay him the reported 720 million yen ($6.5 million) he got each of the past two years with Yomiuri. But should the Giants keep Roberto or acquire Arias — or Woods, for that matter — it would add credence to the rumors, Kiyohara will be sent back to the Pacific League and most likely the Seibu Lions where he spent the first 11 years of his career.

Kiyohara got his 2,000th hit this year but is nine homers shy of the 500 mark, and it would be fitting if he could reach that milestone at the Seibu Dome.

He presumably would be the Lions’ designated hitter but could occasionally spell Alex Cabrera at first base and add yet another potent bat to the Pacific League champion team’s slugging lineup.

Woods, the Central League co-home run leader in 2003 with 40 and again this year with 45, is in a position to change teams, as Petagine did in going from the Yakult Swallows to the Giants in 2003 and Arias did in jumping from Orix to Hanshin in 2002.

He’s reportedly asking the BayStars for a two-year deal at 200 million yen ($1.82 million) and, if the club does not satisfy his contract request, he’s free to look for another team that will.

Tyrone hit .298 with 103 RBIs, and his 45 circuit clouts this year equal the number hit by the Kyojin’s Tuffy Rhodes. Imagine if ‘T’ were to sign with Yomiuiri and team with Tuffy in that lineup?

T & T, dynamite for sure.

Any of the three could go to any team in the Central League, save for the Hiroshima Carp. As the papers have suggested, Arias may be headed for the Giants.

Woods, if he moves, would most likely replace George with the Tigers.

Petagine, used to living in Tokyo for the past six summers, could stay in the capital by returning to the Swallows.

The wild card team here is the league champ Chunichi Dragons who would be looking for a first baseman and a foreigner if they replace Cuban infielder Omar Linares.

Arias, Petagine or Woods would fit in Nagoya as a great third member of a cleanup trio with Alex Ochoa and Kosuke Fukudome.

One other possibility would be the Pacific League expansion team to play in Sendai.

Whether it’s Livedoor or Marty Kuehnert’s Rakuten, the new Tohoku club would be looking for foreign players, and who better to sign than one of the veteran first sackers with experience playing in Japan?

It will be most interesting to see which uniforms these three guys will be wearing on Feb. 1 when spring training begins. For now, the chairs are being set up, and the music is ready to start.

Help wanted: American Phil Lowry is publishing a manuscript about all baseball games that lasted 20 or more innings. Apparently this includes action at all levels in all countries.

He heard about one game, the longest he has been able to find, that supposedly took place in Niibara, Japan, on Sept. 20, 1983.

Light Manufacturing Co. defeated Tanaka Hospital 2-1 in an 8-hour, 19-minute contest that went 45 innings.

Great pitching!

Phil needs some documentation; a box score or newspaper account, to confirm the game actually took place.

Anyone remember this?

Where is Niibara?

Ever stayed at Tanaka Hospital?

If you have information, please e-mail me at
wsgraczyk@yahoo.com or fax (0422) 21-9342. Thanks.

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