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Otani to stay in Japan instead of MLB

TOKYO (AP) - High school pitcher Shohei Otani decided on Sunday to stay in Japan instead of immediately pursuing a career in Major League Baseball.

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Otani had said before November's draft he intended to go to the major leagues straight out of high school, where the 6-foot-4 right-hander's fastball was clocked at close to 100 mph.

Despite his intentions, the 18-year-old Otani was selected by the Nippon Ham Fighters in the first round. Following the draft, the Fighters waged an aggressive campaign to convince Otani to stay in Japan, with the team's hierarchy holding a series of meetings with Otani and his parents.

Otani announced Sunday he would play for the Fighters next season, though he still hopes to play in the major leagues someday.

Players in Japanese professional baseball must wait nine seasons before becoming free agents eligible to play in MLB, although some have gone earlier through the posting system that allows MLB teams to bid for the rights to negotiate with Japanese players.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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