Nakahata to return as BayStars manager in 2014


Kiyoshi Nakahata will stay on as manager of the Yokohama BayStars next season after agreeing to a new one-year deal on Thursday.

Nakahata had been ready to face the music after a disappointing season, but the 59-year-old got the backing of the BayStars and accepted a new contract from club owner Makoto Haruta.

“I spoke to him (Nakahata) and said we would very much like to have him back,” said Haruta. “The manager said he would give it his best shot (next season). He is doing a great job.”

Nakahata said he was prepared to accept his fate after a 6-1 defeat to Hanshin on Sept. 24 ensured the Yokohama-based club would finish fourth or lower in the Central League standings this term.

Kokubo to manage Japan


Former Softbank Hawks and Yomiuri Giants slugger Hiroki Kokubo has accepted an offer to manage Japan’s national baseball team, Nippon Professional Baseball announced Thursday.

The infielder reached 2,000 career hits in 2012 and retired at the end of that season and has been working as an analyst in the media since. He has neither coached nor managed.

“The feeling of NPB and the 12 teams is in agreement that he is the most appropriate person to manage the top team,” assistant secretary general Shoji Numasawa said. “The most important thing he brings is freshness. There is nothing to criticize from his experience or results.”

NPB has been approached by Taiwan about a pair of exhibition games in November, which could be the debut for the 41-year-old Kokubo.

NPB said in July it wanted to decide on a full-time national-team manager by this fall in a bid to recapture the World Baseball Classic title in 2017.

One of Japan’s leading power hitters during the 1990s and early 2000s, Kokubo joined the then Daiei Hawks in 1994 as a second-round draft pick and became the Pacific League home run king in his second year with the team before winning the PL RBI title in 1997.

The Wakayama native played for the Yomiuri Giants for three years from 2004 but returned to the Hawks in 2007. He has both been selected to the Best Nine and won the Golden Glove for his defensive play at first and second base three times.

Kokubo has a .273 career average with 2,041 hits, 413 home runs and 1,304 RBIs over 19 years as a pro.

Kawakami released


The Chunichi Dragons have released veteran right-hander Kenshin Kawakami, senior club officials revealed on Thursday.

“The team is in the situation it is in at the moment and we have to look at rejuvenating it next season,” said club official Norihito Nishiwaki.

The Dragons, who failed to reach the playoffs this season, said they offered the 38-year-old Kawakami a retirement match and a coaching role but he declined, saying he still wanted to continue playing next season.

“I planned to continue playing here next year so I guess I am shocked more than anything else. I am not prefect in every way and I know I am getting on but baseball is all I have.”

Kawakami, whose season started late due to a right shoulder problem, won in his first mound appearance on Aug. 22 against the Hiroshima Carp but that was to be his only victory.

He went 1-1 in five games with a 3.21 ERA and was taken off the roster on Sept. 25.

The Tokushima native was drafted in the first round by Chunichi and named the Central League Rookie of Year in 1998. He led the league with 17 wins and won the Sawamura Award in 2004 and was also the CL’s winningest pitcher in 2006.

After spending 11 years in Japan, all with Chunichi, Kawakami made his foray into the majors via a free-agent deal with the Atlanta Braves in January 2009. He spent his final year of a three-year contract with Atlanta playing in the minor leagues and rejoined the Dragons last year.

Kawakami has a 116-74 record with one save and a 3.21 ERA in 269 games in Japanese baseball. He went 8-22 with one save and a 4.32 ERA in 50 major league games.