Iwamura, Matsui could return to Japan for 2011 season


After spending much of the season in the minors, two former Nippon Professional Baseball stars — Akinori Iwamura and Kazuo Matsui — are keeping their options open for next year, including returning to home soil.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are set to remove the 31-year-old Iwamura from the 40-man roster to make room for a young player, club officials said Monday.

“The most important thing is to be needed by someone,” said Iwamura, who played his last game of the season the same day with Triple-A Indianapolis. “I’ll play on either side of the Pacific.”

Iwamura was designated for assignment in mid-June after struggling to a .182 batting average in 54 games for the Pirates.

Meanwhile, Matsui hit only .141 in 27 major league games this year. In May, he was released by the Houston Astros and signed a minor league deal with the Colorado Rockies.

“I never expected to finish the season this way. I played hard to return to the majors. It’s disappointing and it’s sad,” Matsui said in Colorado Springs, the home of the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate.

Asked if he could play in Japan again, the 34-year-old said, “Of course. As a ballplayer, I want to play every day. The question is whether some club needs me.”