• Kyodo

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The Seattle Mariners are said to be on the verge of signing Kenji Jojima, who is pursuing a deal that will make him the first Japanese catcher in the major leagues, a local daily reported Friday.

The Tacoma News Tribune in its online edition quoted a source as saying that the Marines “are close to signing Jojima to a two-year contract worth about $8 million with an option for a third season.” The source was also quoted as telling the newspaper that the Mariners, who are grooming 2005 first-round draft pick Jeff Clement as their catcher of the future, would not guarantee Jojima a third season.

Jojima was said to be looking for a three-year contract worth between $16 million and $18 million, the daily said, adding the New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers are also “thought to be seriously interested” in the 29-year-old free agent.

Jojima is in Seattle for the first leg of his tour of the United States, which is aimed at gauging its livability for his family.

He is scheduled to stay in Seattle for a few days and to hold a press conference in Chicago on Tuesday.

Nero was quoted as saying that the evening was “not a negotiation session.” “We’re not even close. We’re just dating. Everyone wants us to get married.

We’re just trying to get to know each other.”

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