Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Buffaloes snap up local hero Nakajima


Four-time Best IX shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima is returning to Japan on a three-year deal with the Orix Buffaloes, the Pacific League team said Friday.

The deal is for ¥1.2 billion. The 32-year-old Nakajima spent the last two years in the United States in the Oakland Athletics’ organization without playing a single major league game.

A career .302 hitter in Japan, Nakajima hit 162 homers for the Seibu Lions while scoring 688 runs and driving in 738 before leaving for the United States after the 2012 season.

“I wanted to play in the majors, but I didn’t want to spend another year not knowing what I had to do to get promoted,” he said. “I didn’t think it was going to be useful just hanging around.

“Wherever the manager decides to play me, I want to give all I’ve got.”

The move to Osaka’s Kyocera Dome will see Nakajima playing much closer to his hometown of Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, where he was a star pitcher in high school.

It appears that the chance to be a teammate with his boyhood batterymate, catcher Katsuki Yamazaki, contributed to his decision to join Orix.

The Buffaloes are also expected to sign former Yokohama BayStars slugger Tony Blanco and former Hiroshima Carp right-hander Bryan Bullington, a team official told Kyodo News.

The deals will be formally announced in the coming days. Blanco has hit 169 home runs and drove in 505 runs in six seasons with Yokohama and the Chunichi Dragons while Bullington has won 40 games in four years in Japan.