OSAKA - Orix Buffaloes pitcher Yoshihisa Hirano is eyeing a move to the major leagues as an international free agent, a senior official with the Pacific League club said Sunday.
Hirano, who made his first appearance at the World Baseball Classic with Japan in the spring, told Orix officials of his intentions on Saturday, saying he wanted to find out how major league teams rate him.
Hirano is in the final year of his three-year contract with Orix. The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox are among major league teams thought to have expressed interest in the 33-year-old, who has 156 career saves.
“Free agency is a right (Hirano) has earned after years of service and effort,” said the official.
The official also said he would respect Hirano’s decision but added, “We have big expectations for him on our roster next season, and if it is at all possible we would like him to stay and help us out.”
Hirano, who throws a fastball and a forkball as his primary pitches, won the title of most valuable middle reliever in 2011 and was the NPB saves leader in 2014.