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Giants send Nioka to Fighters

by Jim Allen (Nov 15, 2008)

The Yomiuri Giants and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters pulled the trigger on a major four-player trade on Friday.

The Giants sent slugging infielder Tomohiro Nioka and lefty Masanori Hayashi to the Fighters in exchange for side-arm closer Micheal Nakamura and outfielder Takahito Kudo.

Nioka, 32, had his worst season since joining the Giants in 1999 as a second-round draft pick. He was hurt on Opening Day and played just 31 games. While he was deactivated, the shy Nioka made unwanted headlines through his association with media personality Mona Yamamoto.

"I'm ready to start from scratch," Nioka said at a press conference at the Giants' team office. "I want to do my best so I can earn a regular position."

Nakamura, 32, has been the Fighters' closer for the past three seasons. The right-hander missed some time with injury but still saved 28 games.

The trade gives the Fighters a solid offensive player who can play third or short. The Giants add to Japan's second-best bullpen with their second closer. Right-hander Marc Kroon saved a team-record 41 games this season for the Central League champs.

Hayashi, 25, who has saved 21 games for the Giants after failing as a starter, pitched in just 11 games this season. Kudo has been a speedy fourth outfielder, who started 111 games over the last two seasons.

In other baseball news:

--As expected, Yomiuri right-hander Koji Uehara filed for free agency with an eye toward moving to the major leagues. He has hired SFX Baseball Japan to represent him and can start negotiating next Thursday.


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