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Bucs designate longtime Japanese star Kuwata for assignment

PITTSBURGH -- Masumi Kuwata, the 39-year-old former Japanese
star who finally reached his goal this season of pitching in the
major leagues, was designated for assignment Tuesday by the
Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pirates have 10 days to trade him, release him or send him
to the minors outright. He has been offered a spot at Triple-A
Indianapolis, but he may choose to retire.

"I don't know yet, I haven't decided yet," Kuwata said. "I'm
happy to have pitched in the major leagues. Also, I had a great
experience in the States, in the major leagues, but I don't know
about the future."

In several other moves, the Pirates put catcher-outfielder Ryan Doumit on the 15-day disabled list because of a sprained wrist and
shifted left-hander Zach Duke (elbow) from the 15-day to the 60-day
disabled list. They also purchased the contracts of infielder
Matt Kata and catcher Carlos Maldonado from Indianapolis.

Doumit was hurt while trying to catch a fly ball Monday night
against San Francisco.

Duke, the Pirates' Opening Day starter, could rejoin the Pirates
sometime in September if no problems develop in his rehabilitation.
Duke (3-7, 5.79 ERA) hasn't pitched since a 9-7 loss to Florida on
June 28.

Duke has spent the last six weeks rehabilitating at the Pirates'
spring training camp in Bradenton, Fla., and had been expected to
pitch in a Gulf Coast League game this week. He is eligible to come
off the 60-day disabled list on Aug. 28, but he won't be ready for
the majors by then.

"He threw a 30-pitch bullpen session today [Tuesday] and said
he felt good," general manager Dave Littlefield said. "Everything
has been progressing in a positive way and he's felt very good
health-wise, so we'll keep moving forward to eventually get him
some rehab starts and get him back here. ... But all of these
things are subject to change."

Kuwata, tied to the Yomiuri Giants for his entire career in
Japan because of complicated contract issues, was finally allowed
to pursue a job with a major league team when the Giants cut him
last season. He won 173 games in his Japanese career but had
pitched ineffectively since 2003.

Kuwata, who won only nine games in his final four Japanese
seasons, had lost much of the velocity off his fastball by the time
he signed a minor league contract with the Pirates during the
offseason.

After being out nearly two months with a severe ankle injury
caused when he collided with umpire Wally Bell during a spring
training game, the right-handed Kuwata was called up in June and
had a 2.53 ERA in his first nine Pirates appearances.

But with Kuwata unable to throw his fastball much higher than
the mid-80 mph range, hitters began to adjust and he was scored
upon in eight of his final 10 appearances.

"You do get to a point in time at 39 years of age that there's
some things you'd like to be doing a lot better than you're
physically capable of doing," manager Jim Tracy said.

Kuwata gave up five runs in an inning Monday against the San Francisco Giants, raising his ERA to 9.43. That game marked the
first time all season his wife and two children were together to
see him pitch.

"I was terrible pitching, but they got to see me pitch in PNC
Park and they were very happy," he said.

Kuwata was the oldest rookie pitcher in the majors since
40-year-old reliever Diomedes Olivo with the Pirates in 1960.
Kuwata also was the first former Japanese player to sign with
Pittsburgh.