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Race for Japanese phenom intensifies

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that the race for top Japanese amateur Yusei Kikuchi has picked up steam in the past few days, just a week away from Nippon Professional Baseball draft.

The Rangers are among nearly a dozen teams to have contacted Kikuchi, but no offers have been made just yet. The other teams include the Red Sox, Mets, Yankees, Indians, and Dodgers.

"We want to be fair to all the clubs," said Sasaki. "It's important to choose the place that's right for him to become the best he can be."

The Rangers, who pursued Red Sox pitcher Junichi Tazawa last offseason, sent young pitcher Derek Holland with Rangers executives to meet with Kikuchi in hopes that communicating the day-to-day grind of a minor league pitcher is ultimately (and obviously) worth it in the end. The paper writes the Kikuchi spoke with Holland and was very curious about the minor leagues.

Kikuchi possesses a fastball that tops out at 96 mph, with a hard slider and curveball. A decision from Kikuchi isn't expected for the next couple of weeks.