Ichiro, Iguchi make WBC roster, H. Matsui on hold

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TOKYO, Dec. 9 (18:08) Kyodo

Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and Chicago White Sox
infielder Tadahito Iguchi joined Japan-based star players in the
country's roster for the World Baseball Classic announced Friday by
Nippon Professional Baseball.

Manager Sadaharu Oh, meanwhile, is still awaiting a response
from Hideki Matsui and temporarily left the New York Yankees
outfielder out of his squad for the inaugural 16-nation tournament in
March -- the first to feature major league players representing their

''We haven't reached a conclusion yet but I believe he will
definitely play with us. I don't think about any others who would
join us in his place,'' Oh said when asked about the prospect of
Matsui's participation.

''The players on this roster were chosen on the basis of their
performances this past season,'' Oh said. ''And I also picked players
who help us play the Japanese style of baseball -- like (submarine
right-hander) Shunsuke Watanabe, whose pitching mechanics are not
familiar to our opponents.''

San Diego Padres right-hander Akinori Otsuka was also named from
among Japanese major leaguers while Oh picked the likes of Seibu
Lions ace Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yomiuri Giants right-hander Koji Uehara
and Softbank Hawks lefty Toshiya Sugiuchi, this year's Sawamura Award
winner, from the domestic leagues for the 13-man pitching staff.

Oh also selected speedster Munenori Kawasaki and slugger
Nobuhiko Matsunaka from his Pacific League team. Matsunaka, the 2004
triple crown batter and this year's home run and RBI leader in the
league, is expected to be at the heart of Japan's lineup.

Central League batting champion Norichika Aoki also made the
roster along with Yakult Swallows teammates Hirotoshi Ishii and
Akinori Iwamura, who both intend to pursue a career in the majors in
the near future.

The reigning Japan Series and Asia Series champion Lotte Marines
will send eight players, including Watanabe and infielder Toshiaki
Imae, the Japan Series MVP, to the first of this kind of ''Dream

In the first round of the tournament, Japan will play South
Korea, Taiwan and China at Tokyo Dome on March 3-5.

The top two teams from each of four first-round pools will
advance to the second round, from which the top two finishers in each
of two four-team groups go through to the March 18 semifinals. The
second round will be staged in the United States and Puerto Rico, and
San Diego will host the semifinals and the March 20 final.

Following is Japan's roster for the World Baseball Classic
announced Friday by Nippon Professional Baseball:

Pitchers -- Naoyuki Shimizu (Lotte Marines), Shunsuke Watanabe
(Lotte Marines), Hiroyuki Kobayashi (Lotte Marines), Tsuyoshi Wada
(Softbank Hawks), Toshiya Sugiuchi (Softbank Hawks), Daisuke
Matsuzaka (Seibu Lions), Koji Uehara (Yomiuri Giants), Hiroki Kuroda
(Hiroshima Carp), Soichi Fujita (Lotte Marines), Yasuhiko Yabuta
(Lotte Marines), Kyuji Fujikawa (Hanshin Tigers), Hirotoshi Ishii
(Yakult Swallows), Akinori Otsuka (San Diego Padres)

Catchers -- Tomoya Satozaki (Lotte Marines), Motonobu Tanishige
(Chunichi Dragons), Shinnosuke Abe (Yomiuri Giants)

Infielders -- Tsuyoshi Nishioka (Lotte Marines), Toshiaki Imae
(Lotte Marines), Nobuhiko Matsunaka (Softbank Hawks), Munenori
Kawasaki (Softbank Hawks), Michihiro Ogasawara (Nippon Ham Fighters),
Akinori Iwamura (Yakult Swallows), Takahiro Arai (Hiroshima Carp),
Tadahito Iguchi (Chicago White Sox)

Outfielders -- Kazuhiro Wada (Seibu Lions), Tatsuhiko Kinjo
(Yokohama BayStars), Hitoshi Tamura (Yokohama BayStars), Norichika
Aoki (Yakult Swallows), Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle Mariners)

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