Fukudome returning to Japanese baseball


Outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, who was released at the end of the 2012 season by the New York Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, has decided to return to Japanese baseball next year, informed sources told Kyodo News on Friday.

Fukudome, 35, is already in talks with the Yokohama BayStars and the Hanshin Tigers, and his agent has said Fukudome has abandoned the idea of continuing his career in the major leagues.

BayStars general manager Shigeru Takada said his team is prepared to meet with Fukudome several times if necessary to negotiate a contract. “It starts now. But it will need a little more time,” Takada said.

Tigers general manager Katsuhiro Nakamura, who has not received a response from Fukudome’s camp, said his team is “prepared to wait (until after the New Year).”

Fukudome appeared in just 24 games for the Chicago White Sox this season before he was released on June 22. He signed a minor league deal with the Yankees affiliate on July 13.

The Osaka native batted a career .258 with 195 RBIs and 42 home runs in 596 games over parts of five seasons with the Chicago Cubs (2008-11), Cleveland Indians (2011) and White Sox (2012) organizations.

Fukudome, a career .305 hitter in nine seasons with the Chunichi Dragons, was the Central League’s MVP in 2006.

Kato feeling better


Nippon Professional Baseball commissioner Ryozo Kato, who called off a scheduled meeting in Milwaukee, with Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig after falling ill, has recovered, NPB said Friday.

NPB said that Kato, who was supposed to hold talks with Selig on Thursday, was diagnosed with an “irregular pulse” at a hospital in Washington. The 71-year-old former Japanese ambassador to the United States is currently resting in his hotel room and his pulse has returned to normal.

Lions sign Spilborghs


The Seibu Lions on Friday announced the signing of veteran major league outfielder Ryan Spilborghs and former Hiroshima Carp closer Dennis Sarfate.

Spilborghs, a 33-year-old right-handed hitter, played seven seasons for the Colorado Rockies, batting .272 with 42 home runs in 619 career games. He has played at all three outfield positions but recently has played mostly in left and right. Spilborghs batted .288 in Triple-A last season with nine homers in 124 games.

His one-year contract is for $700,000.

Sarfate, 31, saved 35 games for the Carp in 2011. He lost the closer’s job on May 20, when the Carp gave up five runs in the top of the ninth inning in a 5-4 home defeat to the Fighters. Sarfate finished the season 2-5 with nine saves.

The Lions also announced that lefty reliever Randy Williams will be back for 2013 after pitching in 55 games last season with a 1.70 ERA. Both Williams and Sarfate will receive $800,000 next year.