Shohei Otani among 27 players named to Japan's WBC squad

TOKYO (AP) All-Star pitcher Shohei Otani will headline Japan's bid for a third title at the World Baseball Classic.

The 22-year-old Otani was among 27 players named to Japan's squad on Tuesday by Samurai Japan manager Hiroki Kokubo.

While Otani excelled both as a batter and pitcher for the Japan Series champion Nippon Ham Fighters last season, Kokubo said he intends to use the hard-throwing right-hander primarily as a pitcher during the March 6-22 WBC.

''His main role will be as a pitcher,'' Kokubo said. ''But depending on the situation, I may use him in other roles such as designated hitter.''

The only Japanese player from Major League Baseball who was named to the roster is Houston Astros outfielder Norichika Aoki.

Japan won the inaugural WBC in 2006 and defended its title in 2009. The Dominican Republic won in 2013.

New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka said Monday he will not participate in the tournament.

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