Japan’s top pitcher set to move to U.S.
• Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is set to move to the majors next season after his Japanese team said it was prepared to let him leave, reversing its earlier rejection.
Rakuten Eagles President Yozo Tachibana told a news conference Wednesday that the team has decided to release him through the posting system, paving the way for his departure. Tachibana said Tanaka’s outstanding performance over the past seven years, including this season, meant he deserved to be allowed to move to the U.S.
Tanaka, a 25-year-old right-hander, went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA with the Eagles during the regular season and sought a move to the majors. But he has two years remaining on his contract and Rakuten was under no obligation to release him.
“I’m grateful to the team for allowing me to try. Now I’ve made a first step,” he said. “I hope I would receive offers from as many teams as possible so I have a wider option.”
The New York Yankees are considered the leading candidates to sign Tanaka, though the capping of the posting fee at $20 million meant many other teams could make offers.
The Eagles had rejected the new posting system but it was passed by a vote of Japan’s professional teams. Following that decision, Rakuten had initially said they want to retain Tanaka, before Wednesday’s change of heart.
Tachibana said the team took into consideration Tanaka’s “outstanding contribution to the team” since he joined the Eagles seven years ago. Tanaka’s perfect 24-0 record set a new mark in the history of Japanese professional baseball and brought a first league championship to the team based in Sendai.
For 30 days from the time a player is posted, any MLB team can attempt to sign the player. It pays the posting fee only if it signs the player. Under the new rules, a Japanese club may make players available between Nov. 1 and Feb. 1. A player who is not signed may not be posted again until the following Nov. 1.
Tachibana, the Rakuten president, said his team is happy to retain Tanaka if he does not reach an agreement with an MLB team.
North Dakota hires Schweigert as coach
• Southern Illinois assistant Kyle “Bubba” Schweigert was hired as football coach at North Dakota, returning to the school where he was the defensive coordinator when it won the 2001 NCAA Division II national title. He inherits a team that went 3-8 this year and succeeds Chris Mussman, who was fired after six seasons. Schweigert will be introduced Friday.
South African cricket star Kallis to retire
• Jacques Kallis, South Africa’s leading run scorer, plans to retire from Test cricket after the second match in the series against India starting in Durban today.
He will remain available for selection in the international limited-overs form of the sport and hopes to play in the World Cup in 2015, Cricket South Africa said on its website today.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to come to, especially with Australia around the corner and the success this team is enjoying, but I feel that I have made my contribution in this format,” Kallis, 38, said in the statement.
Kallis has played 165 five-day games for the national team since making his debut as a 20-year-old in 1995, scoring a South African record 13,174 runs at an average of more than 55 and taking 292 wickets, according to CSA. With 44 centuries in Tests, he has the most scores of 100 or more after India’s Sachin Tendulkar, who retired from international cricket in November.
— From wire reports