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Council: Irabu Must Play With Padres

Associated Press

Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu must take his 100-mph fastball to San Diego--and San Diego only--major league baseball’s executive council ruled Thursday.

“The council has affirmed that Irabu is on reserve to the Chiba Lotte club [of Japan’s Pacific League], and Chiba Lotte has given permission only to the Padres to sign Irabu,” acting Commissioner Bud Selig said after a five-hour meeting at a Chicago hotel.

“We’ve done all we can under the present circumstances. We merely looked at this in the context of the existing treaty with Japanese baseball.”

Last month’s deal between the Padres and the Chiba Lotte Marines, giving San Diego exclusive negotiating rights to Irabu, was permissible under a 1966 treaty between the major leagues and Japanese baseball.

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Irabu repeatedly has said he wants to play only for the New York Yankees. And the Yankees--along with the Major League Baseball Players Assn.--are opposed to the council’s ruling.

“A young man is being told he must leave his country and play baseball in America,” said Gene Orza, union associate general counsel. “And if he doesn’t, and chooses to stay home, he will then be subject to punishment to new rules applicable only to him, so that he will never be a free agent in either Japan or the United States.”

Orza said to imagine that there was no rule barring a major league team from assigning one of its players to a club in another country.

“Wouldn’t any fair-minded person still say that telling the American player he had to go to Japan to play--or not play ever again--was simply, clearly and profoundly wrong?” he said.

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There has been speculation that there might eventually be a three-way deal among the Padres, Yankees and Marines for Irabu, 27.

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Cal Ripken Jr., baseball’s ironman, had an iron glove of sorts in his first game as the Baltimore Orioles’ new third baseman.

Ripken, who moved to third to make room for shortstop Mike Bordick, missed the first ball hit in his direction. It was ruled a hit in the second inning of Baltimore’s 12-4 victory over Minnesota--the exhibition opener for both teams at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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Jeffrey Hammonds homered twice and Jimmy Key pitched two scoreless innings in his Baltimore debut.

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Cecil Fielder wants to retire as a Yankee, and owner George Steinbrenner apparently is willing to make it happen.

Fielder, who filed a formal trade demand last November, has expressed a serious desire to remain with the Yankees beyond this season. Steinbrenner is working with the slugger’s agents, which could mean a three-year extension worth $21 million.

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Fielder, 33, is in the final season of a five-year, $36-million deal he signed with the Detroit Tigers. He believes a three-year extension would allow him to finish his career with the Yankees.

“I think that will give me the opportunity to reach or get over the 400-home run barrier (he has 289),” he said.


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