• Kyodo


A baseball distribution draft to divvy up the 107 players between the newly formed Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and the merged club being created between the Orix BlueWave and the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes was held Monday.

News photoTohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles’ general manager Marty Kuehnert (right) and Orix Buffaloes’ new manager Akira Ogi answer questions following the distribution draft.

Kintetsu outfielder Koichi Isobe was among the unprotected players chosen by Rakuten while teammates Norihiro Nakamura, Hisashi Iwakuma and Hirotoshi Kitagawa were each selected to play for the merged team.

Akira Ogi, who will manage the merged team, and Orix BlueWave general manager Katsuhiro Nakamura were among those attending the Osaka meeting along with Rakuten manager Yasushi Tao and team general manager Marty Kuehnert.

The two clubs distributed 82 players from Kintetsu and Orix among themselves who do not apply to the player protection rule, excluding free agents and foreign players.

On the day, Rakuten had its pick of 40 unprotected players while the merged team chose 20 such players from Kintetsu and Orix. Those not selected in the distribution draft will play for the merged team, guaranteeing all players jobs for next season.

The Orix Buffaloes, the team formed through the merger, will also have preference to sign a list of 25 protected players, which was presented by Orix general manager Nakamura to the baseball commissioner’s office last Thursday.

Tao left the meeting due to some other urgent business after revealing that his team selected 17 pitchers and 23 position players.

“We basically have our core players and we were able to select the players we had hoped for,” said Tao.

The distribution draft is designed to give the new teams a chance to be competitive in their first seasons.

Kiyohara meets boss

Yomiuri Giants slugger Kazuhiro Kiyohara met with team president Hidetoshi Kiyotake on Monday to discuss whether he is being considered as a candidate for next season’s roster amid speculation that he may be released.

“All I wanted to confirm was whether the team is going to prioritize the opinion of the front office or the manager,” said Kiyohara, who is entering the final year of a four-year contract.

Kiyohara and Kiyotake talked for nearly an hour and a half about the future role of the 37-year-old infielder, who fractured his finger and was limited to just 40 games this past season despite seeing his 2,000th career hit in June.

In 2001, Kiyohara qualified for free agency and signed a multiyear deal in the offseason, but he spent much of the time warming the bench and was used mostly as a pinch hitter after the Central League team acquired Roberto Petagine in the 2002 offseason.

Dragons keep Ochoa

NAGOYA (Kyodo) The Chunichi Dragons said Monday they have agreed on a two-year, $6 million (642 million yen yen) contract with Alex Ochoa, acquiring the services of the American outfielder for a third and a fourth season.

The 32-year-old Ochoa, formerly of the Anaheim Angels, batted .294 with 21 homers and 89 RBIs in 138 games this past season and contributed to the team’s first Central League championship in five years.

Also on Monday, baseball sources said the Dragons have the upper hand over the Hanshin Tigers in the bidding war to sign Yokohama BayStars slugger Tyrone Woods, who shared the home run title with Tuffy Rhodes of the Yomiuri Giants in the season just ended.

An unnamed Hanshin official said, “We have not been turned down officially yet, but I hear we are in a tight spot. We can’t put forward any more than a two-year, 900 million yen deal.”

The Dragons have reportedly offered a two-year package worth 1 billion yen to the 35-year-old who is set to leave the BayStars after failing to agree on the terms of a new contract.

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