Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and Boston righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka were among seven major leaguers named to the list of 34 candidates for defending champion Japan's team to next year's World Baseball Classic.
Manager Tatsunori Hara, who led the Yomiuri Giants to the Central League pennant this past season, announced the candidates yesterday in Tokyo for the 28 roster spots on the team he has dubbed "Samurai Japan."
"We wanted players who have heart, technique and power, so we can put the best team on the field and be competitive," Hara said at a press conference. "As we won the first WBC, we'll be targeted [by the other teams]. It's the same Japan, but the members will be different. We'll fight hard so we have no regrets. I myself have high expectations."
The squad of 34, which could have additions later due to injuries or other factors, will attend a training camp in Miyazaki starting Feb. 15. The final list of 28 will be announced Feb. 25.
Japan will play in the Tokyo Round against South Korea, China and Taiwan at Tokyo Dome on March 5-9. The top two teams will advance to the second round in San Diego on March 14-19.
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and Takashi Saito, a longtime Dodger currently a free agent, were named along with Mariners catcher Kenji Jojima, Tampa Bay second baseman Akinori Iwamura and Chicago Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome.
* Padres owner John Moores has hired Goldman Sachs to search for a potential buyer as he goes through a divorce from his wife, Becky. The owner didn't say what percentage of the team would be up for sale.
* Shortstop Adam Everett and the Detroit Tigers finalized a 1-year contract worth about $1 million.
* Lefthanded reliever Alan Embree was guaranteed $2.25 million in his 1-year contract with Colorado.
* Outfielder Jason Michaels and the Houston Astros agreed to a 1-year, $750,000 contract. Michaels, 32, hit .224 with eight home runs and 53 RBI in 123 games with Cleveland and Pittsburgh last season. *