The Softbank Hawks have released Hideki Okajima so that he can pursue a return to Major League Baseball, according to Nikkan Sports (Japanese link translated by NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman on Twitter).
The Athletics are said to be interested in Okajima, who pitched to a 0.94 ERA, 6.8 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9 in 47 2/3 innings for the Hawks last season. The 37-year-old southpaw returned to Nippon Professional Baseball last season after an injury to his left shoulder caused his minor league deal with the Yankees to fall through.
Okajima has a 3.11 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 over the course of 246 1/3 Major League innings — all coming with the Red Sox from 2007-11. He finished sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting as a 31-year-old in 2007 and also represented the AL in the All-Star Game that season.