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M's closer freed to stay in Japan

Published Aug. 27, 2005

Kazuhiro Sasaki choked back tears when he stopped by the Mariners clubhouse and said goodbye to Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone and other former teammates.

Sasaki signed papers Tuesday to terminate his contract, leaving behind a guaranteed $8.5-million next season because he wants to remain in Japan with his wife and two young children.

"I'm not really sure what people are thinking, but most importantly my children are very happy," Sasaki said through an interpreter.

The Mariners placed their former closer on waivers, with other teams notified that Sasaki will not pitch if he's claimed. Seattle plans to give Sasaki his unconditional release when he clears waivers later this week.

He plans to pitch in Japan next season.

"Nothing has been decided," Sasaki said. "I'm going to go back to Japan and see what happens. I want to continue pitching."

The move opened a spot on the 40-man roster and left general manager Bill Bavasi with a big wad of money. The Mariners could pursue a star from a dwindling free-agent crop, with catcher Ivan Rodriguez mentioned.

PITCHER APOLOGIZES FOR VIDEO: Indians minor-leaguer Kazuhito Tadano is asking for forgiveness for what he called a one-time mistake: his appearance in a gay porn video in which he engaged in a homosexual act.

Tadano took part in the video three years ago when he was a college student. Sitting in the Cleveland clubhouse, the pitcher said he hoped to put his actions in the past.

"All of us have made mistakes in our lives," Tadano said, reading a statement in English. "Hopefully, you learn from them and move on."

OSPREY DEATH: Cubs minor-league pitcher Jae Kuk Ryu, who killed an osprey with a baseball in Daytona Beach last year cannot pay his way out of performing community service, a judge ruled. Ryu, 20, knocked the bird from its perch at Jackie Robinson Ballpark before a Florida State League game April 21. The bird died six days later.

ASTROS: Right-handed reliever Dave Veres returned to Houston, agreeing to a minor-league contract. Veres, 37, was 2-1 with a 4.68 ERA and four saves for the Cubs last season.

DEVIL RAYS: Tampa Bay expanded its spring training roster to 61 by inviting right-hander Rob Bell to camp after he cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Durham. Bell, 5-4 with a 5.52 ERA in 19 games last season, was taken off the 40-man roster last week to make room for left-hander Damian Moss.

DODGERS: Second baseman Alex Cora broke his right arm playing in the Puerto Rican winter league and was expected to be sidelined four to six weeks.

GIANTS: Trainer Stan Conte isn't counting on closer Robb Nen pitching this season, but he expects ace Jason Schmidt to be ready by early April as planned. Schmidt, a right-hander recovering from elbow surgery, might throw off the mound for the first time next week. Nen, a three-time All-Star who had 43 saves and a 2.20 ERA in 2002, didn't pitch last season after surgery May 7 to repair a torn tendon in his right (pitching) shoulder.

REDS: Catcher Steve Lomasney agreed to a minor-league contract and was invited to spring training.

_ Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.