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Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters two-way star Shohei Otani, who is nursing an ankle injury, on Tuesday faced a batting practice pitcher for the first time since spring training in Arizona opened a week ago, showing further signs of recovery.

Otani spent 20 minutes swinging at quality pitches in the cage after being limited to tee ball and soft toss hitting drills due to the right ankle injury that is keeping him out of next month’s World Baseball Classic and most likely the Fighters’ season opener as well.

“It’s been a while (taking real pitches) but I’m glad I was able to hit,” said Otani, who put on his cleats for the first time in more than a week and played catch in the outfield after hitting practice.

“The field was wet and I didn’t want to slip, so I wore my cleats. It was easier to throw,” he said.

The 22-year-old hurt the ankle during last year’s Japan Series and aggravated it in November while running the bases in Samurai Japan’s exhibition series against Mexico and the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, the Fighters said they will prepare 165 “Two-way Star Shohei Otani Seats” for every home game at Sapporo Dome and Tokyo Dome starting this season. The limited ticket package includes a special T-shirt.

Otani holds Nippon Professional Baseball’s fastest pitch record of 165 kph.

Carter to sign with Yanks

New York AP

Last year’s National League home run co-leader found a new home on Tuesday when Chris Carter agreed to a deal with the New York Yankees.

Carter accepted a $3.5 million, one-year contract, which is subject to a successful physical. The deal includes a $500,000 signing bonus, a $3 million salary and $500,000 in performance bonuses: $100,000 each for 250, 300, 350, 400 and 450 plate appearances.

“I am excited to go play for a bigger market team with more national exposure,” Carter said in a telephone interview with AP.

Carter, whose career-high 41 home runs last season matched Colorado’s Nolan Arenado for tops in the NL, became a free agent in December when Milwaukee failed to offer a 2017 contract.

Carter hit .222 with a career-best 94 RBIs while appearing in a NL-leading 160 games last season. He played 155 games at first base in his first year in the NL after spending the first six years of his career in the American League with Oakland and Houston. Carter’s 27 doubles, 122 hits, 76 walks and 84 runs scored last season were also career-highs, but he struck out 206 times.

It’s unclear how the Yankees will use the 30-year-old Carter; left-handed-hitting Greg Bird is expected to play first and Matt Holliday is likely to be the regular designated hitter. Seeking right-handed bats to balance a batting order dependent on lefty power, the Yankees agreed earlier this offseason to a $13 million, one-year contact with Holliday.

Carter spent the majority of the last two seasons playing first base but spent 120 games at DH for the Astros in 2014.

“I’m ready for whatever role they give me,” he said. “I know they have Holliday and I know Bird’s there, so I’m looking to help the team any way I can.”

It’s been a tough few months of uncertainty for Carter, who hit 102 homers in the last three seasons.

“It’s definitely been tough having to wait this long in the offseason when spring training is so close,” he said. “I’m glad to have this out of the way now so I can get out there at spring training and have a team and be out there with the guys.”

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