The 2004 World Series champion Boston Red Sox are one of the major league teams becoming increasingly involved with Japanese baseball as evidenced by the recent signing of Japanese pitcher Denney Tomori and an agreement to send two coaches and two players from the BoSox organization to join the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks spring training camp next week.

Tomori, 37, exercised his right to file for free agency following an 18-year Japan pro baseball career with the Yokohama BayStars and Seibu Lions and signed with Boston last month for a reported $315,000 in salary and incentives, plus a signing bonus of $200,000.

The Okinawa native, son of a Japanese mother and American father, had compiled a record of 18-28 with the BayStars (two tours) and Lions, and he racked up 30 saves. Most of his experience has been in a relief role.

He will be in spring training with the major league club and have an excellent chance to make the varsity roster of a team whose pitching staff has been diminished following the loss of Pedro Martinez to the New York Mets and Derek Lowe to the Los Angeles Dodgers, also through the free agent route.

Craig Shipley, Special Assistant to Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein, said, “We are happy to have Denney-san in camp and look forward to seeing if he can help our major league team. He will be given every opportunity to make our club.”

Meanwhile, the Hawks will host four visitors from the Boston organization at their spring training site in Miyazaki for 11 days, beginning Feb. 15.

Far East area scout and former Red Sox minor league manager Jon Deeble will be joined by current Double-A manager Todd Clauss and minor league players Justin Sherrod and David Murphy.

The four will interact with Hawks manager (and Japan’s all-time home run king) Sadaharu Oh, his coaching staff and the team’s players, including superstar first baseman Nobuhiko Matsunaka (the 2004 Pacific League triple crown winner and MVP) and catcher Kenji Jojima.

“This is a great opportunity for our young guys to experience a different culture and learn about Japanese baseball. They will encounter different teaching techniques and philosophies, and I believe the Japanese hitting techniques Murphy and Sherrod will encounter can be very productive for them,” Shipley predicted.

“The Red Sox organization picked Justin and David to go to Japan for a reason, and we anticipate they will bring back something that will enhance their respective careers. I have reminded them they will be representing the Red Sox and the city of Boston,” said Shipley who expects all four men will make a smooth adjustment to the Japanese camp, practice drills, Japanese food and the rural austerity of southern Kyushu.

Sherrod and Murphy are both outfielders. Sherrod, 27, played at Triple-A Pawtucket in 2004, batting .267 with 17 home runs and 51 RBIs, appearing in 104 games. Murphy, 23, hit .261 with four homers and 38 RBIs in 73 games at Sarasota, a High-A Class team.

The four will depart Miyazaki on Feb. 26, just prior to the conclusion of the Hawks camp, with Deeble heading back to his native Australia (he was the manager of the 2004 Athens Olympics silver medal-winning team).

Clauss, Sherrod and Murphy will move on to Florida for their own spring training, with the two players invigorated by the Japanese experience and looking to make the Boston club as soon as they can.

The signing of Tomori and the SoftBank camp visit are expected to be precursors of further interaction between the Red Sox and Japanese baseball.

Boston was said to have interest in former Hawks infielder Tadahito Iguchi, a free agent who eventually signed with the Chicago White Sox.

The Red Sox recently sold the contract of right-handed pitcher Jamie Brown to the Hanshin Tigers, and Gabe Kapler, the Yomiuri Giants new centerfielder, came from the World Series champions as well, although he was a free agent, so there was no transaction between the Sox and the Kyojin.

Shipley, who visited Japan last October with Deeble to watch the Pacific League playoffs and a few late-season Central League games, summed up his team’s interest in Japan by saying, “We want everyone to know how much we value the Japanese market and will be active in it. We are scouting it in a more comprehensive way and look forward to more interaction with Japan that will benefit both the Red Sox and Japanese baseball.”

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