April 22, 2007


Dice-K joins in rivalry (Steve Buckley, 4/22/07, Boston Herald)

Years from now, aging New England baseball fans will be able to tell you that Daisuke Matsuzaka’s first appearance in a Red Sox uniform was a spring training tuneup against Boston College, and that the first man to connect for a hit was Eagles outfielder Johnny Ayers.

Some will remember that Matsuzaka’s first appearance against a big league team took place in Jupiter, Fla., in a Grapefruit League game against the Florida Marlins, and that his first regular-season game was in Kansas City.

The Dice Man’s Fenway Park debut? April 11. Seattle Mariners. Ichiro.

And now, as this season of firsts continues for the most-watched, most-covered, most-talked-about rookie in Red Sox history, another significant milestone is kneeling in history’s on-deck circle.

Tonight, Daisuke Matsuzaka faces the New York Yankees.

Whether or not it was the best baseball decision -- and it's looking like it was -- the decision to rely on Hideki Okajima so heavily in the first two games of a series that's getting blanket coverage in Japan is brilliant marketing and entertainment.

Reliever's been lighting it up: Okajima emerging from large shadow (Gordon Edes, April 22, 2007, Boston Globe)

Daisuke Matsuzaka is the Monster. Hideki Matsui is Godzilla. And what about Hideki Okajima?

A reader (and baseball blogger) named Peter Naboicheck of Farmington, Conn., has taken to calling Okajima "Darkman," a comic-book creation played in the 1990 movie version by actor Liam Neeson. Naboicheck is riffing off Okajima's spring training utterance in which he said of pitching in Matsuzaka's shadow, "I am willing to be a hero in the dark."

The nickname may not stick, but Naboicheck may be onto something. Okajima has to rank as the revelation of the team's first month. Coming into the season, the 31-year-old lefthanded reliever's greatest value to the Sox, according to the wise guys, was to keep Matsuzaka company.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 22, 2007 7:36 AM
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