Japan mulls tougher rules for MLB-bound amateurs

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TOKYO (AP) — Japanese baseball officials are considering stricter rules for amateur players who bypass the country's professional leagues to play in Major League Baseball.

Concern with the existing rules arose after high school pitcher Shohei Otani decided to pursue a career in the major leagues instead of playing in Japanese professional baseball.

In 2008, Junichi Tazawa left Japan's corporate league, signing with the Boston Red Sox as the first top amateur to bypass the Japanese draft.

Tazawa's move led Japanese baseball to rule that if a player decides to play overseas after being drafted by a Japanese team, he cannot play for a Japanese pro club for up to three years after he returns to Japan.

Japan's 12 pro teams are looking for tougher rules to keep talented young players in Japan.

"If there is a better system for the teams and for the players we should consider it," Hiroshima Carp general manager Kiyoaki Suzuki said.

Otani was selected in the first round of Japan's amateur draft by the Nippon Ham Fighters. The 6-foot-4 right-hander later said he would stick to his dream of playing in the major leagues despite being selected by the Japanese team.

The 18-year-old Otani, who has thrown a 100 mph fastball, has been scouted by several major league teams including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles.

After drafting him, the Fighters said they will do everything to convince Otani to stay in Japan.

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