FULL COUNT: Sakata returns to SJ; A’s ponder Nakajima

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Rakuten Eagles ace and 30 consecutive game winner Masahiro Tanaka had until 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 24 to announce which of the five MLB teams that have bids in for his services he intended to sign with.

Reports and ramblings had put the Los Angeles Dodgers ahead of the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox in descending order of likelihood — but the former Eagle ended up landing with the Yankees, more than two days under deadline.

Other teams rumored to have been in play on a multitude of levels included the Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers, but the odds were on Dodger blue.

L.A. offered the best living situation for its large Japanese American community and proximity to the entertainment world, where his wife — pop singer Mai Satoda of the group Country Resume — can settle in.

The Dodgers also have a history of bringing over Asian pitchers that began in the mid-1990s with Korean fireballer Chan Ho Park and Japanese right-hander Hideo Nomo. They experienced simultaneous success with both thus spearheading the heavy scouting of professional leagues in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan for the next great ace.

Then in the early-2000s the Dodgers got varying results from the arms of Kazuhisa Ishii, Masao Kida and Jae Weong Seo, but they’ve remained dedicated — like all MLB teams — to the practice.

In 2010, the Dodgers agreed to terms with young hurlers Kazuki Nishijima and Kazuya Takano and more recently in December signed righty Takumi Numata to a minor league deal.

Meanwhile Lenn Sakata is back in the Giants organization as manager with San Jose, where his teams posted a 466-374 record in 1999, 2001 and 2004-07 winning three California League titles. Sakata also managed two years in Japan with the Chiba Lotte
Marines before managing in at the Class-A level in the Colorado Rockies organization the last three years. The Hawai‘i-born utility man spent his 11-year playing career with the Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles, Oakland Athletics and Yankees. He won a World Series ring with the Orioles in 1983.

And as noted in previous columns, the A’s will give infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima every opportunity his $2.5 million salary dictates, but with returning starters Eric Sogard and Jed Lowrie ahead of him, he needs an outstanding spring to warrant a roster spot or risk spending another season developing in Triple-A Sacramento.

Finally a few closing notes. The Yankees signed former Rangers reliever Yoshinori Tateyama to a minor league deal on Jan. 8 in search of bullpen depth and Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney, a defensive specialist, did not win his second Gold Glove after posting poor batting stats that included a .208 batting average and .266 on-base percentage.

Drew Morita, a Yonsei from Kaua‘i, writes from San Francisco. Follow him @drewmorita or e-mail him at drew_morita@yahoo.com.

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