BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -Masumi Kuwata, one of the top pitchers in Japanese baseball history and a major leaguer for the first time in his career last season at age 39, retired Wednesday from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Kuwata, who turns 40 on Monday, had a 1.80 ERA in five innings this spring, but had not pitched since March 18. When it became clear that he would not make the Pirates' opening-day roster, he chose to retire rather than possibly start the season in the minors.
The right-handed Kuwata, the most valuable player of Japan's Central League with the Yomiuri Giants in 1994, was offered a coaching job by the Pirates but declined that and apparently will return to Japan.
Kuwata had long wanted to pitch in the majors but, saddled with a restrictive contract he signed with the Giants early in his career, could not do so until last season.
Although his career had declined for years, Kuwata - 4-13 during his final three Japanese seasons from 2004-06 - signed a minor league contract with Pittsburgh last year. He injured his ankle during a spring training collision with umpire Wally Bell and stayed in extended spring camp for weeks, but subsequently pitched for Triple-A Indianapolis before being promoted to Pittsburgh.
Kuwata made his major league debut at Yankee Stadium on June 9, but went 0-1 with a 9.43 ERA in 19 games before being taken off the roster. His final appearance was Aug. 13, when he allowed five runs in one inning against the San Francisco Giants.
Kuwata was the oldest player to make his major league debut since 41-year-old Diomedes Olivo, also for the Pirates, in 1960.
The Pirates' new general manager, Neal Huntington, invited Kuwata to camp - partly out of respect, he said, for the professionalism displayed by Kuwata during his time with the team last season.
Kuwata was 173-141 with a 3.55 ERA in 442 career games with the Yomiuri Giants and was chosen the league's pitcher of the year in 1987.

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