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Kenji Johjima to retire from baseball

09/28/2012 3:40 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro
Catcher Kenji Johjima has announced that he will retire from baseball at the end of the 2012 Nippon Professional Baseball season, according to reports out of Japan on Friday.

2012 has been an injury-filled year for Johjima, who is in the third year of a four-year deal with the Hanshin Tigers of the Central League. He has been limited to just 24 games, mostly as a pinch-hitter, and has been unable to catch due to left knee and right elbow injuries.

That line comes on the heels of him hitting just .189 in 38 games in 2011, and despite having a year left on his contract, the 36-year-old backstop reportedly said that he is calling it quits because he’s "not a player worth 400 million yen (roughly $5 million) a year."

Johjima has played 18 seasons total, 14 in NPB and four in the Major Leagues with the Seattle Mariners. He came to the States in 2006 after his first 11-year stint in Japan with the Pacific League’s Daiei Hawks, and hit .268 with 48 homers and 198 RBI in 462 games for Seattle before opting out of his deal and heading back to his homeland after the 2009 campaign.

In 14 seasons in Japan, Johjima has played in 1,323 games with the Hawks and Tigers, hitting .296 with 244 home runs and 808 RBIs. A former No. 1 pick of the Hawks out of high school, Johjima won six Pacific League MVP Awards while with Daiei, and he has won Japan’s equivalent of a Gold Glove eight times, most recently with Hanshin in 2010.

He also helped Japan win their second straight World Baseball Classic in 2009.

Johjima isn’t the only Japanese star who opted out of his deal on Friday, as the Minnesota Twins announced that they have released infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka – who headed to Major League baseball after winning the NPB Pacific League batting title for Chiba Lotte in 2010 – at Nishioka’s request after two sub-par seasons in MLB.

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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