LEAD: Matsuzaka departs for U.S. to meet agent

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NARITA, Japan, Nov. 15 (21:28) Kyodo


Daisuke Matsuzaka departed for Los Angeles on Wednesday after
the Boston Red Sox won the exclusive right to negotiate with the
right-hander following the team's offer of $51.11 million to the
Seibu Lions.

Matsuzaka, 26, will meet for talks with his agent, Scott Boras,
before sitting down at the negotiating table with the American League
team in an effort to reach a contract agreement over the next 30
days. He is scheduled to return to Japan next Tuesday.

''First of all, I was very relieved. I haven't been able to
sleep soundly for the past four or five days,'' said Matsuzaka before
boarding a plane at Narita Airport.

''I feel like I've just crossed the starting line. It has been
difficult waiting. This is different from the draft where you know
the result right away.''

Boston's bid of exactly $51,111,111.11 is far higher than the
$13,125,000 the Seattle Mariners paid for Ichiro Suzuki in 2000, the
previous high under the so-called posting system that enables
Japanese players to sign up with a major league team before becoming
free agents.

''Boston is a famous team with many big name players. I was
shocked at first to hear the amount of the accepted offer. I never
thought that the amount would be over $30 million,'' Matsuzaka said.

''I'm happy that I've been valued so highly, but I also feel
pressure to perform now,'' he said.

A deal between Matsuzaka and the Red Sox would add to the
excitement of baseball fans in Japan, who can anticipate matchups
between him and Japanese American League stars Hideki Matsui (New
York Yankees), Suzuki (Seattle Mariners) and Tadahito Iguchi (Chicago
White Sox).

''Pressure is something that is part of playing baseball. I want
to perform well in the majors, so I can be booed by our opponents'
home field fans.''

Matsuzaka possesses a deceptive ''gyroball'' -- which resembles
a screwball -- a solid fastball and a number of off-speed pitches in
his repertoire.

''The batter I really look forward to facing is (Seattle
Mariners') Ichiro-san,'' Matsuzaka said, who said he looks forward to
making a trip out to Fenway Park as soon as he has a contract in his

Since the Red Sox are willing to put down $51.11 million just on
the bid for Matsuzaka, some baseball critics are wondering if they
will have enough in their cash reserves to successfully land a
contract with the Japanese ace.

Matsuzaka said a key part to the deal will be the support the
Red Sox show in arranging a comfortable living environment for his
family where he can focus on playing baseball.

The asking price for Matsuzaka's contract could range from $7
million to $10 million annually over three to four years.

In March, Matsuzaka helped lead Japan's successful campaign in
the World Baseball Classic and was named the Most Valuable Player of
the inaugural tournament, proving his worth in front of a horde of
major league scouts.

Matsuzaka said the main purpose of his trip will be to meet with
Boras as well as to view the team's training facilities. He said that
he views the winning bid as his last debt of gratitude toward the
Seibu Lions.
''The amount from the winning bid is enough to help with
bolstering the team with players and create a ballpark that fans want
to come out to.''

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