Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Buffaloes ace Chihiro Kaneko to become free agent

Kyodo

Orix Buffaloes right-hander Chihiro Kaneko, who won every postseason award on offer for a pitcher in 2014, will be released, the Pacific League club revealed Wednesday.

Kaneko won the PL’s MVP Award and the Sawamura Award as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher in 2014. He pitched 17 games this season, going 4-7 in the final year of a four-year contract. Players earning over ¥100 million ($879,000), such as Kaneko, have the option of becoming a free agent rather than accepting a 40-percent cut in salary.

Hiroyuki Nagamura, Orix’s director of baseball operations, said Kaneko called the team on Wednesday morning to inform the club of his intention to leave.

The 35-year-old Kaneko went 16-5 with a 1.98 ERA in 2014, when the Buffaloes were runners-up in the PL, finishing behind the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks by winning-percentage points, .565 to .563.

That autumn, Kaneko filed for free agency, but re-signed with Orix. He had minor surgery at the end of November 2014 to clean out his right elbow. Although expected to be fit after three months, his rehab and recovery did not go smoothly.

Since signing his contract, reportedly worth ¥600 million ($5.27 million) a year, Kaneko has gone 30-30 and finished with a losing record twice, the only two losing campaigns of his career.

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