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Former Hanshin Tigers manager Senichi Hoshino is being considered as the top candidate to take the helm as the next skipper of the struggling Yomiuri Giants, team officials said Thursday.

Hoshino, who led the Tigers to their first pennant title in 18 years in his second year with the Central League team, would replace current Yomiuri skipper Tsuneo Horiuchi, who is expected to be fired at the end of the season with one year remaining on his contract.

The perennially popular Giants have fallen into fifth place in the league standings with a dismal 42-58 record with four ties and the team is desperately seeking new leadership to return the club to its former days of glory.

Yomiuri has apparently already made contact with Hoshino and will likely make him an offer. Should he accept a deal with Yomiuri, the 58-year-old will become the first-ever manager with the team never to have played for the Giants.

Fighters ax Denbo

The Associated Press

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters have fired batting coach Gary Denbo, the team said Friday on its official Web site.

Denbo, 44, was the batting coach for the New York Yankees in 2001 and was in his third season with the Fighters. He came to Japan with former Columbus Clippers manager Trey Hillman, who still manages the Fighters.

The team said Denbo was let go over differences of opinion with other members of the coaching staff.

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