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Left-hander Ken Takahashi, who has declared himself a free agent from the Hiroshima Carp with the hope of playing in the major leagues, has narrowed down talks to four big league clubs.

“We have narrowed down our choices to four teams for a major league contract,” Takahashi’s agent Go Nakanishi said Friday without revealing the names of the clubs.

The 39-year-old Yokohama native appeared excited that he is close to fulfilling his goal, despite facing difficulties with contractual talks due to the world economic crisis.

“There is now a possibility that I will have the chance to play in the majors,” Takahashi said.

“We want him to get a fair assessment even in today’s economic climate,” said Nakanishi.

Takahashi has also received offers from three domestic clubs but Nakanishi said his mind is set on playing in the majors.

“He has basically made a decision to play in the majors, so there has been no change with that.”

Takahashi went 8-5 with a 3.50 ERA in 21 appearances, 20 of them starts, last season and has a 66-87 career record with five saves and a 4.23 ERA in 14 seasons, all with Hiroshima.

Lee to skip WBC

Kyodo News

Yomiuri Giants first baseman Lee Seung Yeop reiterated his stance Friday that he will not play for South Korea in the World Baseball Classic in March.

“That talk is already over,” the 2006 WBC home run leader said after arriving at Haneda airport.

Lee ruled himself out of the WBC after enduring the worst season of his career in Japan and hitting just .111 in the Japan Series last November.

South Korea, however, has placed him on a 45-man provisional WBC roster with the hope of seeing him step up again in the heart of the lineup as in the country’s gold-winning campaign at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Lee hit a two-run homer in the first inning of a 3-2 victory over Cuba in the Olympic baseball final.

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