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Akihito Fujii and Katsumi Yamashita both homered off Hiroki Sanada as the the newly formed Rakuten Eagles beat the Yomiuri Giants 4-3 in a preseason opener on Saturday.

News photoTohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles rookie hurler Yasuhiro Ichiba delivers a pitch during their preseason game against the Yomiuri Giants on Saturday at Oita Stadium. The Eagles won 4-3 in their professional baseball debut.

Yoshinobu Takahashi homered over the left-field fence off Rakuten rookie Yasuhiro Ichiba to make it 2-0 for host Yomiuri in the third inning as light snow fell at Shin-Oita Stadium, but the home runs from Fujii and Yamashita, who drove in three runs between them, saw the new boys home in front of a sellout crowd of 13,700.

The two scheduled games between the Chunichi Dragons and the Yokohama BayStars, and the Yakult Swallows and the Nippon Ham Fighters, both in Okinawa Prefecture, were rained out.

Buffaloes 11, Tigers 3

At Aki Municipal Stadium in Kochi Prefecture, catcher Takeshi Hidaka went 3-for-4 with three RBIs to lead a 16-hit attack as the new team created as a result of the Kintetsu Buffaloes-Orix BlueWave merger, overpowered Hanshin.

Lions 9, Carp 7

At Miyakonojo Stadium in Miyazaki Prefecture, Toru Hosokawa and Shogo Akada each had three hits and two RBIs, and Shinji Mori pitched two scoreless innings in relief to lead Seibu to victory over Hiroshima.

Nakamura’s dilemma

VERO BEACH, Fla. (Kyodo) Los Angeles Dodgers manager Jim Tracy hinted Friday that if Norihiro Nakamura does not arrive at the team’s spring training site in another few weeks, his chances to prove himself among top-team players could diminish.

Tracy said in a news conference that he intends to provide an opportunity for Nakamura, who is scheduled to take part in spring training as a guest player, but would also like to stick to his own timetable even after the Dodgers begin preseason games on March 2.

“It depends on how late he is. If it’s a matter of four or five days it’s all right, but if he doesn’t get here until the middle of March, it could be a problem,” said Tracy.

Nakamura, who is hoping to make the Opening Day roster in the major leagues, signed a minor-league contract with the Dodgers earlier this month but has not been able to leave Japan yet because his visa issuance has been delayed. He missed the first day of camp on Thursday.

Talks set on new deal

TAMPA, Fla. (Kyodo) The New York Yankees will begin negotiations on a new contract with All-Star outfielder Hideki Matsui through his agent this weekend, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday.

Cashman said he will meet with agent Arn Tellem on Saturday, when the two will discuss a possible extension on a deal for Matsui, who will be entering the final year of a three-year, $21 million deal he signed in December 2002.

“I haven’t said anything to my agent yet. I have no concrete plans now because I assumed talks wouldn’t begin until I finish my third year,” said the 30-year-old Matsui.

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