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Jeremy Powell looks set to finally join the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks after acting Japanese baseball commissioner Yasuchika Negoro all but ended a long-running contract row between Softbank and the Orix Buffaloes on Wednesday.

In a meeting with Pacific League chief Tadao Koike, Negoro said the two clubs must restart negotiations with the former Yomiuri Giants pitcher.

The move means Powell is unlikely to return to the negotiation table with Orix as he has already expressed a desire to join Softbank, which has offered a more lucrative deal.

Powell could be put on the active roster from opening day without having to serve the three-month suspension the PL handed in its nonbinding ruling in early February.

“I wanted to settle this issue early because the regular season is coming soon. I tried to make things simple,” Negoro said. “We still have to discuss the issue of how clubs sign contracts with foreign players in Nippon Professional Baseball executive committee meetings.”

The contract row began when Softbank said Jan. 29 it had signed a contract with Powell nearly three weeks after Orix announced the acquisition of the 31-year-old.

On Feb. 4, the PL issued its nonbinding ruling in favor of Softbank while saying Powell will be suspended for three months into the season for triggering the feud.

The ruling ignited stern protest from both clubs, eventually leading the PL to take the case to the commissioner.

Powell said at a press conference in Tokyo on Feb. 5 that he believes the official signing did not take place between him and Orix, saying he signed a contract faxed to him by Orix because he was told it would be used only for his visa application and the acquisition of his residence status.

Powell led the PL with 17 wins for the Kintetsu Buffaloes in 2002 and has posted double-digit wins in four of his seven seasons in Japan.

He played for Yomiuri the last two seasons but a knee injury limited him to seven starts with a 0-2 record in 2007. He is 67-59 with a 3.89 ERA in Japanese baseball.

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