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the Fat toad retires


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TOKYO -- Hideki Irabu has decided to retire from baseball, ending a career in which he won 13 games for the New York Yankees in 1998 and was once ridiculed by owner George Steinbrenner for failing to cover first base.

The 35-year-old right-hander asked Japan's Hanshin Tigers at the end of March to organize a news conference to announce his retirement, but the two sides have yet to agree on a date.

Irabu joined the Yankees in 1997 on a $12.8 million, four-year contract. He played three seasons before being shipped to Montreal in 2000. While with the Yankees, Irabu did not cover first base in spring training once, prompting Steinbrenner to berate him as a "fat toad." Irabu's best season with the Yankees was in 1998 when he went 13-9 with a 4.06 ERA.

Irabu once threw a 98 mph fastball with the Chiba Lotte Marines, the fastest pitch in Japanese baseball history. The mark has since been equaled by Ryota Igarashi of the Yakult Swallows and Kazuo Yamaguchi of the Orix Buffaloes.

Irabu spent six seasons in the majors with the Yankees, Expos and Texas Rangers, posting a career record of 34-35 with a 5.15 ERA. He signed with the Tigers in 2003 when he won 13 games to help the Central League team win its first pennant in 18 years. Irabu went 0-2 in 2004 after spending most of the season sidelined with an injured right knee.

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