Otsuka had 2.09 ERA in Japan this year

Updated: November 20, 2003, 9:11 AM ET
Associated Press

TOKYO -- The San Diego Padres paid $300,000 for the right to negotiate with Japanese right-hander Akinori Otsuka of the Chunichi Dragons.

The Japanese baseball commissioner's office told Chunichi officials Thursday that the Padres can now negotiate with Otsuka.

The Padres have 30 days to reach a deal with the pitcher, who has said he wants to play in the major leagues next season.

If he signs with the Padres, Otsuka would become the third Japanese player to sign with a major league team under the posting system, following Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners and Kazuhiro Ishii of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Under the system, Japanese players who have yet to qualify for free agency can be sold to major league teams.

Otsuka, the top reliever in Japanese baseball in 1998, went 1-3 with 17 saves in 51 games with a 2.09 ERA for the Dragons this season.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press