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01/12/09 1:32 PM EST

Cubs deny rumored Takahashi deal

Chicago not close to signing Japanese left-hander, officials say

CHICAGO -- Cubs officials denied a report that the team was close to signing Japanese left-hander Ken Takahashi.

Japan-based Sports Hochi reported the possible signing on Sunday night. If the team did find another lefty, the Cubs could slide Sean Marshall into the rotation. As of now, Marshall and Neal Cotts are the only left-handers in the bullpen.

Takahashi went 8-5 with a 3.50 ERA for Hiroshima last year.

The report said the Cubs wanted another Japanese player to help outfielder Kosuke Fukudome with the transition to the Major Leagues. Fukudome batted .257 last season, including a .217 average in the second half. The Cubs have considered adding a Japanese batting coach to help Fukudome make the adjustment.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.