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Swallows skipper Ogawa to step down

Kyodo

The Central League’s Tokyo Yakult Swallows on Monday accepted manager Junji Ogawa’s decision to resign at the end of the season due to the cellar-dwelling club’s poor results.

“I think we are where we are as a result of my managing,” Ogawa told a press conference at the club’s offices in Tokyo.

After three strong seasons under Ogawa, the Swallows hit the skids in 2013 and have not improved this year. On Saturday, they were eliminated from playoff contention.

Batting coach Mitsuru Manaka, who managed the Swallows’ farm club to an Eastern League pennant last season, is a strong candidate to take over the Swallows. A former outfielder, the 43-year-old Manaka played for four Japan Series championship teams during his 16 years as a player with Yakult.

The 57-year-old Ogawa was handed the Swallows interim job midway through the 2010 season and was made manager after the Swallows finished fourth with its first .500 record in six seasons. Yakult was second in 2011 and third in 2012, but injuries began piling up last season, chiefly to star right-hander Shohei Tateyama and slugging outfielder Lastings Milledge, while fire-balling right-hander Yoshinori Sato has not pitched since 2011.

“We’ve been at the bottom of the standings all along, and it had occurred to me to bring down the curtain,” Ogawa said. “There are a lot of reasons for this (our bad results), but game management is the biggest.”

Team president Tsuyoshi Kinugasa said, “I can hardly say we brought him any reinforcements, but he soldiered on for us. I, too, have to take a hard look in the mirror.”