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Monday, October 22, 2012
L.A. in the mix for Japanese phenom

By Mark Saxon

The Dodgers have said they'll spare no expense in the pursuit of talent all over the globe and they proved that by signing Cuban defector Yasiel Puig for $42 million in June. Now, they're reportedly engaged in talks with pitcher Shohei Otani, who would be the first Japanese high-schooler to come directly to the United States.

Otani announced Sunday that he will sign with a U.S. team rather than pitch in his native country. The Dodgers are among a handful of teams pursuing Otani, 18, including the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox.

"I think I will start in the minor leagues but I want to challenge in the majors. It's been my dream since entering high school," Otani told reporters in Japan.

The stakes are fairly high because Otani has been clocked throwing 97 to 99 mph. Already, he has drawn comparisons with the previous generation's Japanese pitching phenom, Yu Darvish, who went 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA for Texas last season.

Because Otani is not under contract with a Japanese professional team, the major-league team that signs him would not have to go through the expensive posting system.