Buffaloes hurler Kaneko wins Sawamura Award, expresses interest in move to majors

Kyodo

Orix Buffaloes ace Chihiro Kaneko was announced as the winner of the prestigious Sawamura Award on Monday, but trumped that with an announcement of his own — that he is interested in taking his game to the major leagues.

The 180-cm, 77-kg right-hander, who went 15-8 in 2013, surpassed those figures this season. Kaneko, who turns 31 next month, went 16-5 to lead the Pacific League in wins and posted a league-best 1.98 ERA for the second-place Buffaloes.

Asked about the possibility of asking Orix to make him available to big league clubs through the posting system, Kaneko admitted it was on his mind.

“That’s one option I’m thinking about,” Kaneko said at Hotto Motto Field.

Kaneko is eligible to file for domestic free agency this offseason, and will be able to go abroad a year from now without Orix’s consent.

“I’m thinking about all the options open to me,” said Kaneko, who traveled to the United States to watch the World Series after Orix was knocked out of the playoffs a week ago.

“The atmosphere at American ballparks is something I’ve admired for a long time. The Japan-major league All-Star series will give me an opportunity to face the hitters from over there. When that’s done, I’ll think about it again thoroughly.”

Although Orix could expect some compensation for losing Kaneko as a domestic free agent, it is nothing like the cash he could bring in if he is posted to the majors.

The posting system was revised a year ago to cap the amount of money that can be paid to Japanese teams to $20 million. Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish each earned their clubs around $50 million in transfer fees under the previous system.

The Sawamura Award, named in honor of legendary Yomiuri Giants pitcher Eiji Sawamura, is given to Nippon Professional Baseball’s most dominant starting pitcher.

“For two straight seasons, he has done so much,” said former Giants ace Tsuneo Horiuchi, who chairs the selection panel consisting of former winners. “He comes up a little short in a couple of categories, but I respect how hard he has worked.”

The seven statistical benchmarks for a candidate are: 15 wins, a 2.50 ERA, 200 innings and 25 games pitched, 10 complete games, 150 strikeouts and a .600 winning percentage.

Kaneko cleared all but two, finishing four games and working 191 innings.

Sosa, Chen won’t return to BayStars

Yokohama KYODO

The Yokohama BayStars said Monday they will not re-sign pitchers Jorge Sosa and Chen Kuan-Yu for next season.

Sosa was counted on to close for Yokohama, but had just three saves with an 0-3 record and 4.94 ERA. Chen pitched in all of one game, allowing three earned runs in 2-1/3 innings.