Matsuzaka to sit out MLB exhibition tour in Japan

Updated: October 22, 2006, 5:47 PM ET
Associated Press

TOKYO -- Japanese star pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka will sit out next month's Major League Baseball exhibition tour of Japan.

Matsuzaka, expected to sign with a major league team in the offseason, wants to focus on his conditioning, tour organizers said Friday. He has drawn interest from several major league teams, including the New York Yankees, after finishing the 2006 season with a career-best 17-5 record.

The 26-year-old right-hander posted a 2.13 ERA and 200 strikeouts for the Seibu Lions this season. Matsuzaka impressed major league scouts when he helped Japan win the inaugural World Baseball Classic title last March and was named MVP of the tournament.

Kazumi Saito, who won 18 games for the SoftBank Hawks this season, is among the leading candidates to replace Matsuzaka.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press