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Free agent Shigeki Noguchi will leave the Chunichi Dragons and has decided to join Central League rival the Yomiuri Giants, baseball sources said Wednesday.

News photoFormer Chunichi Dragons lefty Shigeki Noguchi appears in this July 30, 2003, file photo. Noguchi signed with the Yomiuri Giants as a free agent.

Noguchi, who had indicated he may find a new home, held talks with representatives of both teams in Nagoya the same day, and the left-hander is expected to agree on a deal with Yomiuri by the end of this month.

“Yomiuri told me they need me on the team and that pleased me,” said Noguchi, who had also attracted interest from the Hanshin Tigers.

“Once I’ve joined the team, I will give it my best and try to make a big contribution,” he added.

Noguchi has an 80-78 record with a 3.67 ERA in his 12-year career. He was named the Most Valuable Player in 1999 as he led the Dragons to win the Central League title with a career-high 19 wins.

The 31-year-old also won the ERA title in 1998 and 2001 before injuries limited him to a total of 18 wins in the last four seasons. This year, he went 3-6 with a 4.00 ERA in 13 games.

Free agent Motonobu Tanishige, meanwhile, has decided to stay with the Dragons. The 34-year-old catcher signed a three-year deal and will earn 220 million, yen plus performance-related bonuses next season.

“I’ve put pen to paper, and the only goal I’m thinking about is the winning the Japan Series,” said catcher Tanishige.

Yano stays

KOBE (Kyodo) Free agent Akihiro Yano has agreed to stay with the Hanshin Tigers next season, baseball sources said Wednesday.

The 36-year-old catcher, who regained eligibility for free agency this year, is eager to help Hanshin win the Japan Series after twice missing out on the title with the Central League pennant winners.

“Playing for Hanshin is the best thing for me to do, and I felt a strong desire to stay after missing out on the Japan Series title,” said Yano.

PL schedule out

Japan Series champion the Chiba Lotte Marines will meet the Softbank Hawks on Opening Day as the Pacific League announced the schedule for the 2006 regular season on Wednesday.

Lotte travel to Yahoo Dome in Fukuoka, the Seibu Lions welcome the Orix Buffaloes to Invoice Dome and the Nippon Ham Fighters host the Rakuten Eagles at Sapporo Dome when the season begins March 25, one week ahead of the Central League and five days after the completion of the World Baseball Classic.

Two of the top three PL teams from the 2004 season have home advantage on Opening Day, with the Marines being the lone squad not to open at home.

The season-opener with the Hawks will pit Lotte against the foe it met in the second-stage PL playoffs this season, a series Lotte held on to win 3-2 after jumping out to a 2-0 lead.

Lotte is Japan’s representative in this weekend’s Konami Cup Asia Series, also being played at the Big Egg.

Marines manager Bobby Valentine is linked to as many as three jobs in the major leagues, where he managed the Texas Rangers and New York Mets in the past. Valentine denies being under contract for next season with Lotte and said he has not received an offer to do so, conflicting with a report that said the manager had been extended a three-year deal.

Included in the 136-game schedule will be 36 interleague matches, with 58 games to be held at regional stadiums around Japan. There will be no Monday night games next season.

The first stage playoffs will take place on Oct. 7 with the second stage to be played four days later.

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