Yomiuri Giants right-hander Koji Uehara re-signed with the Central League club Wednesday for an annual salary of 400 million yen -- the highest for a pitcher in Japan among those who have already agreed to contracts this winter.
The contract agreement represents a 90 million yen salary injection, surpassing Chunichi Dragons closer Hitoki Iwase's 2007 paycheck of 390 million yen. Iwase is currently considering an offer of 430 million yen from the Dragons.
Uehara made a slow start to the season after injuring both of his hamstrings but managed a comeback and took over the closer's role at the end of April.
The 32-year-old Uehara had pitched out of the starting rotation until suffering his injuries but made his mark as a closer, registering a new club record 32 saves en route to helping Yomiuri win its first league championship in five years.
''The team has given me a very high evaluation,'' said Uehara, who also contributed as the closer to help the Japanese national team book a berth in next year's Beijing Olympics.
''I didn't know how they would evaluate me as a closer, but I kind of knew that I would get a pay raise and it was a great feeling.''
Next season, Uehara hopes to rejoin the starting rotation after experiencing the pressure of the closer's role. Yomiuri has acquired former Yokohama BayStars closer Marc Kroon.
''The closer really is a tough position. I really learned how important every pitch is. Hopefully, I can be a starter again.''
Uehara will be eligible for free agency if he remains on the active roster eight days after the start of the 2008 season.