SEATTLE — The Mariners' Kenji Johjima opted out of the final two years of his contract, allowing him to sign with a Japanese team.
In April 2008, Seattle had signed the 33-year-old catcher to a $24 million, three-year extension covering 2009-11. He gave up salaries of $7.7 million next year and $8.1 million in 2011.
His deal gave him the right to end it by Nov. 15 for the purpose of finishing his career in Japan.
"After lots of very deep thought and deliberation, I have decided to return home to resume my career in Japan," Johjima said in a statement today. "I have had a wonderful experience competing at the Major League level. The last four years have been extraordinary, with great teammates and great coaches. I will always be indebted to the Mariners organization for giving me the opportunity to follow my dream. This was a very difficult decision, both professionally and personally. I feel now is the time to go home, while I still can perform at a very high level."
When he wasn't injured this year, Johjima lost playing time to rookie Rob Johnson. The Mariners favored Johnson's handling of the pitching staff over Johjima's offense.
Seattle also has 25-year-Adam Moore, who made his major league debut Sept. 17 and appeared in six games.
Johjima signed with the Mariners in 2005 after playing 11 seasons with Fukuoka of Japan's Pacific League. He was the first Japanese-born catcher to play in the majors.
Johjima hit .268 in his four seasons with Seattle, including 84 doubles, 48 homers and 198 RBIs in 462 games. Johjima holds the AL record for hits by a rookie catcher (147 in 2006). His 18 homers in his first season tied the Mariners club mark for most by a catcher.
Johjima slumped to .227 as part of Seattle's 101-loss collapse in 2008, and hit just .247 in 71 games this year.
"We respect his decision to return home. Joh has been a terrific teammate and a great competitor," general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "His work ethic, production and desire to win made him a positive role model."
NEW YORK — Florida, Alabama and Texas hold the top three spots in the first BCS standings and control their fates in the national championship race.
The Gators are in first, just ahead of the Crimson Tide. Texas is third.
Boise State is fourth, but Broncos still seem to be a long shot to reach the national championship, even if they stay unbeaten.
Unbeaten Cincinnati is fifth and Iowa, also undefeated, is sixth. Both are in good position to pass the Broncos if they keep winning.
Seventh-place Southern California is the highest-rated team with a loss.
Undefeated TCU, vying with Boise State to be reach the big-money bowl games from outside an automatic-qualifying conference, is in eighth place.
STORRS, Conn. — A Connecticut football player who was an expectant father was stabbed to death early Sunday after an on-campus dance, just hours after helping his team to a homecoming victory.
Jasper Howard, 20, of Miami, and another student were stabbed during a fight after a fire alarm was pulled during a university sanctioned dance at the UConn Student Union just after 12:30 a.m., police said.
Police had not identified a suspect or released the name of the other victim.
Connecticut coach Randy Edsall said the team was heartbroken and devastated over the loss of Howard, a junior and the team's starting cornerback who came to the school to get away from the violence on the streets of his hometown. He became the first person in his family to go to college.
MIAMI — Isiah Thomas was finally back on the court Saturday.
Holding his first official practice as Florida International's coach, the Hall of Fame player ran up and down with his new team, yelling out pointers on how to defend off the dribble. Far from his past coaching home with the New York Knicks, Thomas said his focus is on rebuilding the Golden Panthers, who finished 13-20 last season.
He led stretching drills and cheers, looking agile and carefree in his new gym.
The season-opener at defending national champion North Carolina is about three weeks away, but FIU is already reporting that ticket sales have jumped 166 percent ahead of last season's pace — so hiring Thomas seems to be paying off.
NEW YORK — After years of courting the European and Asian markets, the NBA is trying to build up its fan base among Hispanics.
The league will launch a marketing campaign on Monday called enebea — the Spanish pronunciation of NBA. Featuring increased TV and internet exposure, plus community projects, the NBA hopes to expand its reach among a demographic that makes up 15 percent of its fan base.
A Spanish-language Web site (www.nba.com/enebea) will include news and features on Hispanic players, and the league will plan events to renovate basketball courts in Hispanic neighborhoods.
SHANGHAI — Nikolay Davydenko upset top-seeded Rafael Nadal 7-6 (3), 6-3 on Sunday to win the Shanghai Masters for his fourth title of the year.
The sixth-seeded Davydenko broke decisively in the sixth game of the second set to collect his 18th career title. His flat groundstrokes and angled winners denied the Spaniard a sixth title this year and his first since the Rome Masters in May.
Nadal returned last week after a month out due to a pulled stomach muscle at the U.S. Open. He looked rusty, having advanced twice when his opponents retired: Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia in the quarterfinals and Feliciano Lopez of Spain in the semifinals.
SAO PAULO — Jenson Button clinched his first Formula One title with a fifth-place finish at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday and his Brawn GP team made history by becoming the first to take the constructors' crown in its debut season.
Red Bull's Mark Webber claimed his second Grand Prix win ahead of Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber and defending champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren. Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel was fourth.
Home-crowd favorite Rubens Barrichello, Button's Brawn GP teammate, finished eighth.
Fifth was good enough to give Button an insurmountable 15-point lead over Vettel in the drivers' standings ahead of the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 1.
INDIANAPOLIS — Former Arizona swimmer Lacey Nymeyer was honored as the NCAA woman of the year at a dinner Sunday night.
Nymeyer earned a silver medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay at the 2008 Olympic games. She helped lead Arizona to the 2008 NCAA Division I women's swimming and diving team championship. She also captured a gold medal at the 2007 FINA World Championships in the 800-meter freestyle relay.
The award honors student athletes who have completed their college eligibility, demonstrated academic and athletic excellence and engaged in community service and leadership opportunities.
She is the third student-athlete from Arizona and sixth swimmer to win the award.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian officials are insisting security won't be a problem for the 2016 Olympics despite drug-gang violence that plunged Rio de Janeiro into a day of bloody chaos that left 14 people dead just two weeks after it was picked to host the games. An hourslong firefight between rival gangs in one of the city's slums killed at least 12 people, injured six and saw a police helicopter shot down and eight buses set on fire Saturday.
Police said Sunday that they killed two other suspected drug traffickers in overnight clashes near the Morro dos Macacos ("Monkey Hill") slum where 2,000 officers were put on patrol to maintain order.
— The Associated Press
Authorities said the violence would only toughen their resolve to improve security ahead of the Olympics and before 2014, when Brazil will host the World Cup soccer tournament