• Kyodo


Veteran slugger Kazuhiro Kiyohara said Monday he is ready to make a fresh start in his career with the Orix Buffaloes and determined to help his new team win a championship.

“I’m ready to take a new step forward without looking back. I’ve savored the taste of winning a number of titles before, and I want to do it one last time in my career,” Kiyohara said when he was introduced by the Kobe-based Pacific League club.

Kiyohara, who was released by the Yomiuri Giants in the fall, last week announced his decision to join Orix under a one-year deal that includes an annual salary of about 250 million yen and performance-based incentives.

“I’ll try to reach base in any fashion — with a hit and even by getting hit by a pitch — to help bring victories to this team,” said the 38-year-old Osaka native, who appeared before the press without his trademark pierced earring.

Kiyohara is expected to form the core of the Orix lineup with fellow newly signed player Norihiro Nakamura, the former Kintetsu Buffaloes slugger who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their minor-league affiliate this year.

“I think the value of the Orix brand has greatly improved with the acquisitions of these two guys,” Orix manager Katsuhiro Nakamura said. “The presence of Mr. Kiyohara is huge for us. Hopefully he’ll also prove to be a driving force in our campaign with his batting and help attract many baseball fans.”

Kiyohara was released by Yomiuri in October after struggling with a .212 average, 22 homers and 52 RBIs and having season-ending knee surgery in late August.

In his 20-year career, he has hit .273 with 514 homers, fifth on the all-time list in Japanese baseball, and 1,491 RBIs in a career divided between the Seibu Lions and the Giants.

Matsunaka fields offer

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) The Softbank Hawks offered slugger Nobuhiko Matsunaka a new multiyear deal Monday but the Pacific League home run and RBI king said he needs more time to decide on his future.

Sources close to the talks between both sides said Softbank is hoping to sign Matsunaka to a four-year contract worth about 3 billion yen in an attempt to keep his services beyond 2007, when he is likely to meet the requirements to become a free agent.

“I’m glad that the team needs me to such a degree but it’s hard for me to give a quick answer,” said Matsunaka.

Carrasco joins Hawks

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) The Softbank Hawks announced Monday the acquisition of right-hander Daniel J. Carrasco, who has agreed on a two-year contract with the Pacific League club.

The deal is worth about 500 million yen, including a signing bonus, club officials said. Softbank expects the 28-year-old former Kansas City Royals player to help bolster its bullpen.

Carrasco pitched in 101 games for Kansas City the last three seasons and had a 14-15 record with two saves and a 4.81 ERA.

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