Power steps up at Penske
Will Power is stepping in for Helio Castroneves at Team Penske while the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion fights tax evasion charges in court. Team Penske announced the deal on Tuesday, saying Power will handle testing for Penske’s No. 3 car, which has belonged to last year’s IndyCar Series runner-up Castroneves. Power’s contract with KV Racing Technology expired at the end of last season. The team said whether Power drove in any races depended on the outcome of Castroneves’ trial in Miami, scheduled to begin on March 2. The IndyCar season opens on April 5 in St Petersburg, Florida. Castroneves has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and tax evasion involving about US$5.5 million in income stashed in offshore accounts.
Braves, Kawakami ink deal
Japanese All-Star pitcher Kenshin Kawakami and the rebuilding Atlanta Braves on Tuesday agreed to a three-year contract. The 2004 Central League MVP has won 112 games in 11 seasons in Japan and was regarded as one of the top free-agent pitchers from Japan this offseason. He was 9-5 for the Chunichi Dragons last year, when he missed several weeks because of a back strain. The 1.78m right-hander passed a physical in Atlanta on Monday. He will be the first Japanese-born player in franchise history. The Braves have attempted to boost their presence in Japan in recent years, and manager Bobby Cox said scouts have closely followed the 33-year-old Kawakami. Cox said he was impressed by video of Kawakami. “He looked very good,” Cox said. “He was able to throw the ball right where he wanted to with three or four pitches.”
Phillies’ Park drops S Korea
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Park Chan-ho will miss the upcoming World Baseball Classic (WBC) after quitting South Korea’s national team. Park, who finalized a US$2.5 million, one-year contract with the Phillies last week, said on Tuesday he needed to focus on trying to become a starter for the World Series champions. “I’m very sorry to my fans and the people who wanted me to play in the WBC,” said Park, who briefly left the podium after breaking into tears. “I won’t be playing for the national team anymore.” The 35-year-old right-hander said he was unsure about his status with the Phillies and needed to focus on securing a spot with the team. “As I’m going to the Phillies, I will do my best there to achieve my goal of becoming a starter,” Park said.
Uehara closes Orioles deal
Pitcher Koji Uehara finalized a US$10 million, two-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, making him the first Japanese-born player in franchise history. The 33-year-old Uehara, who agreed to terms last week, completed the contract after passing a physical. He gets US$5 million a year and could make more in performance bonuses. If he makes 34 starts and pitches 200 innings in each season, he would earn US$16 million. Uehara comes to the Orioles after a 10-year run with the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Central League. He went 112-62 with a 3.01 ERA, with 56 complete games in 207 career starts. He had 1,376 strikeouts and issued only 206 walks in 276 career games for the Giants. His career average of eight strikeouts per nine innings would rank seventh among qualifying active Major League Baseball pitchers. Uehara was the rookie of the year in 1999, and was Japan pitcher of the year in 1999 and 2002.