Hideki Irabu has taken another step on his comeback trail - the stocky righthander has officially joined the Kochi Fighting Dogs of Japan's independent Island League (IBL). He's set to debut on the 23rd and his salary is being reported at between $1500-$1800 a month. Irabu's goal appears to be to play in NPB again, and joining the IBL should help - he'll get more direct exposure to NPB scouts and possibly play against NPB minor league ni-gun teams in interleague games.
Hanshin team president Numazawa commented on Irabu's return to Japan to Sanspo: "We want to see how much he can throw. It's not that we absolutely don't want him, but he quit because of knee problems, so how far is he coming back and how much can he move? To say we definitely don't want see him would be a lie."
My guess is that Irabu winds up in camp with an NPB team next spring.