Japanese star Otani announces desire to move to MLB

OSAKA, Japan (AP) Highly touted Japanese pitcher-outfielder Shohei Otani announced on Saturday he wants to move to Major League Baseball next season

''I hope to do my best in America from next year on,'' Otani said during a press conference at the Japanese National Press Center.

Otani's Japanese club, the Nippon Ham Fighters, said on Friday they will allow Otani to use the posting system this offseason, clearing the way for him to sign with a major league team next season.

Otani, 23, is the reigning Pacific League MVP and was 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA this year. Despite thigh and ankle injuries, he batted .332 in 65 games with 16 doubles, eight homers and 31 RBIs. He had ankle surgery last month.

He has a 42-15 record with a 2.52 ERA and 624 strikeouts in 543 innings over five seasons, and a .286 batting average with 48 homers and 166 RBIs.

Because Otani has less than nine years of service time, Nippon Ham retains his rights and he must go through the posting system to leave.

If Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association and Nippon Professional Baseball agree to a deal that would extend the expired posting agreement through this offseason, the team that Otani signs with would pay the Fighters $20 million. Under MLB's labor contract, his signing bonus is restricted and remaining pool money is limited to a high of $3,535,000.

Otani considered going straight to MLB out of high school but was convinced to sign with the Fighters as they assured him he could play the outfield as well as pitch.

His injury problems this season stemmed from last year's Japan Series when he injured himself running the bases.

Otani, who had ankle surgery last month and is currently undergoing rehabilitation, just completed his fifth season with the Sapporo-based Fighters.

He said during Saturday's press conference that he hopes to be able to continue both batting and pitching.

(Associated Press Writer Yuri Kageyama contributed to this report from Tokyo)

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