OSAKA – The Orix Buffaloes said Wednesday they held talks with infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who was released from the Minnesota Twins at the end of the season.
Orix discussed the possibility of Nishioka joining the team with the 28-year-old for about an hour a half.
“I think we had a good discussion,” team official Yoshio Murayama said in a statement. “He would be a central player for our organization, and definitely someone necessary for the club.”
The Hanshin Tigers, however, also said they plan to meet with Nishioka, who walked away from the final year of a three-year contract to return to Japan, at an Osaka hotel on Friday.
Nishioka’s former club the Chiba Lotte Marines have also begun talks to bring him back.
Tigers general manager Katsuhiro Nakamura said his team is prepared to sweeten Nishioka’s offer to lure him from going elsewhere. “We know that we can’t compete if our offer is worse than other teams. It will probably take more than one meeting. We’re prepared for that,” said Nakamura.
A former Japanese All-Star, Nishioka played in only 71 games at the major-league level, posting a .215 batting average with 14 runs scored and 14 errors. He spent the majority of this past season in the minors.
Owner comes around
Hanshin Tigers owner Shinya Sakai acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that Tigers closer Kyuji Fujikawa is aiming to move to the major leagues as an unrestricted free agent.
After a meeting with front office officials at the Hanshin Electric Railway Co. headquarters, Sakai said he recognizes Fujikawa’s desire to play overseas. “He’s in the United States right now, so I understand his intention,” Sakai said.
The Hanshin owner also said he heard scouting reports on infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, outfielder Kosuke Fukudome and pitcher Ryota Igarashi, all of whom played in the majors this season. The Tigers are aiming to acquire the three during the offseason.
A report from the Dallas Morning New’s online edition Monday said the Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers have scouted Fujikawa.