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SoftBank Hawks release Hideki Okajima

The veteran southpaw will now have an easier time negotiating a return to Major League Baseball.

Greg Fiume

The SoftBank Hawks -- an NPB club located in Fukuoka, Japan -- have released veteran left-hander Hideki Okajima so that he may pursue an MLB comeback, relays Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker from a Nikkan Sports report.

Okajima, 37, is drawing interest from at least the Oakland Athletics, who were reported yesterday to be "considering signing" the former Red Sox reliever.

Okajima spent five seasons with Boston from 2007-2011, starting his tenure as a go-to, high-leverage reliever but eventually falling out of favor in his final two campaigns with the club. Overall, Okajima put up a 3.11 ERA and 2.50 K/BB ratio over 246⅓ innings in his half-decade with the Sox.

The southpaw signed a minor-league deal with the New York Yankees prior to the 2012 season, but was released shortly thereafter when a medical check revealed abnormalities in his throwing shoulder, per Nikkan Sports.

Okajima showed no signs of a shoulder problem upon his return to Japan, posting a 0.94 ERA and 6.00 K/BB ratio in 47⅔ innings with the SoftBank Hawks.