• The Associated Press


Former New York Yankees and Hanshin Tigers pitcher Hideki Irabu has decided to retire, Hanshin officials said Friday.

The 35-year-old right-hander asked the Tigers at the end of March to organize a press conference to announce his retirement but the two sides have yet to agree on a date.

Irabu, who started his career with the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League, joined the Yankees in 1997 on a $12.8 million, four-year contract.

He spent three seasons with the Yankees before being shipped to the Montreal Expos in 2000. While with the Yankees, Irabu failed to cover first base in spring training once, prompting Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to refer to him as a “that . . . fat toad.”

Irabu’s best season with the Yankees was in 1998 when he went 13-9 with a 4.06 ERA.

While with the Marines, Irabu once threw a 158-kph fastball which stands as the record for the fastest pitch thrown in Japanese baseball history, but has since been equaled by Ryota Igarashi of the Yakult Swallows and Kazuo Yamaguchi of the Orix Buffaloes.

Irabu spent six seasons in the majors with the Yankees, Expos and Texas Rangers before signing with the Tigers in 2003 when he won 13 games to help the Central League team win their first pennant in 18 years.

Irabu went 0-2 in 2004 after spending most of the season sidelined with an injured right knee.

In the major leagues Irabu has a career record of 34-35 with a 5.15 ERA.

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