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Pitcher Matsuzaka to Face Ichiro and Matsui in the Majors (February 2, 2007)

Matsuzaka Daisuke leaves for America. (Jiji)
A number of Japanese baseball players have used the posting system this off-season to go to the Major Leagues. The Boston Red Sox acquired the right to negotiate with pitcher Matsuzaka Daisuke from the Seibu Lions, the Tampa Devil Rays purchased the right to talk to infielder Iwamura Akinori from the Yakult Swallows, and the New York Yankees paid the Hanshin Tigers for the right to sit down with hurler Igawa Kei. The sporting world was stunned by the $51.1 million the Red Sox put forward just to talk to Matsuzaka. The posting system was introduced in 1998, but this is the first time that three Japanese players have made use of it in the same year. This coming baseball season in the United States will allow fans to see some dream match-ups among Japanese stars.

New Match-ups
Including Matsuzaka, all three of these players have ended up with teams in the American League East. The Yankees, of course, already have Matsui Hideki. It appears that the archrival Red Sox may have decided to get Matsuzaka for that very reason. These bitter rivals will play 18 times in the regular season, and this perennially popular card will have even more drawing power this year.

Even more than his coming duels with Matsui, fans want to see Matsuzaka go up against Suzuki Ichiro of the Seattle Mariners. On the official website of Major League Baseball under the heading, "What is the biggest sight to behold in 2007?" Matsuzaka vs. Ichiro was at the top of the list. The match-up between these two players will pit the ace pitcher who led Japan to the inaugural World Baseball Classic title last year against one of the best hitters in all of baseball. When Matsuzaka faced Ichiro for the first time in 1999 when Ichiro was still with the Orix Blue Wave, Matsuzaka struck him out three times. As the Mariners are in the AL West, the Red Sox will play them fewer times than they will the Yankees, but this rarity of these clashes will only pique interest further.

Igawa Kei at a press conference to mark his joining the New York Yankees. (Jiji)

Players Look to Revive Careers in America
Also in the AL East, the Devil Rays cannot be overlooked. Iwamura should get plenty of playing time as a regular, meaning that fans should get to see him go up against pitchers Matsuzaka and Igawa. Iwamura will be joined this season by his former Seibu Lions teammate pitcher Mori Shinji. There were high hopes for Mori as a closer last year, but he was injured in spring training and never found his way onto the field, so people are anxious to see how he will do this year.

There will be a total of 15 Japanese players in the Major Leagues this season, including pitcher Okajima Hideki, who has moved from the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters to the Boston Red Sox, and pitcher Kuwata Masumi, who left the Yomiuri Giants and has signed a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. While some worry about an exodus of talent from Japanese baseball, these Japanese major leaguers are providing fans with plenty of excitement.

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Copyright (c) 2007 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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