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Monday, December 1, 2008
Report: Japanese pitcher Tazawa agrees to three-year deal with Red Sox

ESPN.com news services

Japanese pitcher Junichi Tazawa agreed to a three-year contract with the Boston Red Sox after rejecting offers from three other major league teams, The Boston Globe reported.

Junichi Tazawa
Junichi Tazawa decided to play in Major League Baseball rather than make himself available for Japan's pro teams.
The newspaper, citing a source, reported that Tazawa will arrive in Boston this week to take a physical after agreeing to a three-year deal worth about $3 million.

The Globe reported that Tazawa's deal is a major league contract, meaning he will be placed on the Red Sox's 40-man roster. However, Tazawa is expected to start next season in the minor leagues.

Although Tazawa's deal is for three years, the Red Sox will hold his rights for three additional years as he will need six years of major league service before qualifying for free agency.

According to The Globe, it is unclear if the Red Sox view Tazawa as a starter or reliever.

The 22-year-old right-hander contacted the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Atlanta Braves on Friday to reject their offers, Kyodo News agency reported Friday.

The hard-throwing Tazawa is a standout in Japan's corporate leagues. He asked Japan's professional teams not to select him in November's amateur draft so that he can pursue a career in the U. S. major leagues.

Tazawa helped Nippon Oil win the intercity tournament in September and reach the semifinals of the corporate championship that ended Sunday.

No rule prevents American teams from pursuing Japanese amateurs.

Current stars such as Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners and Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Red Sox first made names for themselves playing in Japan's pro leagues.

Several major league teams have been reluctant to pursue Tazawa for fear of upsetting relations between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball.

After Tazawa made clear his intention to bypass Japan's draft, Japan's professional baseball teams agreed to introduce a ban on players who return to the country after opting out of the amateur draft in order to play for overseas pro teams.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.