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Shohei Otani to start professional career in Japan

December 09, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Shohei Otani is an 18-year-old with a fastball that approaches 100 mph.
Shohei Otani is an 18-year-old with a fastball that approaches 100 mph. (Getty Images )

Teenage pitching prospect Shohei Otani announced his intention to start his professional career in his native Japan and sign with the Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Otani, 18, had previously said he would to come to the United States and the Dodgers were confident they would sign him.

The right-hander said he still wants to pitch in the major leagues one day.

“I would eventually like to go to the major leagues,” Otani said Sunday. “It’s a place I admire. I would like the Fighters to teach me the road to get there.”

Otani, who's armed with a fastball in the 100 mph range, said in October that he intended to sign with a major league team rather than play in Japan. The Dodgers, who started scouting Otani in his first year of high school, thought they were in prime position to sign him.

But that changed after the Fighters drafted Otani and spent the last month convincing him to remain in Japan. The Fighters promised Otani their No. 11 jersey, which was previously worn by Yu Darvish, and offered him the most lucrative contract that could be signed by a first-year player.

At baseball’s winter meetings this week, Dodgers officials were resigned to losing Otani.

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