Japan tries to discourage amateurs from playing in MLB with ban

TOKYO -- Japan's professional baseball teams have agreed to introduce a ban on players who return to Japan after opting out of the amateur draft in order to play for overseas pro teams.

The move comes after highly regarded amateur pitcher Junichi Tazawa announced plans last month to negotiate with major league teams rather than make himself eligible for the Oct. 30 draft.

Executives of Japan's 12 professional teams decided to ban players who had graduated from high school from entering professional Japanese teams for three years after returning to Japan from overseas stints, and introduce a two-year ban for such players from university or company teams.

Through the move, Japanese baseball officials hope to discourage top amateur prospects from bypassing Japan's pro leagues to play in the major leagues.

Players from Japan's professional leagues must wait nine seasons before becoming free agents. Kazuhito Tadano and Mac Suzuki are the only Japanese players to have played in the majors without playing in Japanese pro baseball first.

Tadano returned to Japan after playing in the major leagues and now pitches for the Nippon Ham Fighters. Under the new rule, he would have to wait two years before signing with a Japanese professional team.

Several American teams, including the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, scouted Tazawa while he led Nippon Oil to the corporate league championship this season.