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Steinbrenner hasn't given the go-ahead

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees would play the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in Tokyo on March 30-31 if they decide to go ahead with a season-opening trip to Japan.

The Yankees and Devil Rays would leave the United States on
March 25 and arrive in Japan the following day, according to a
draft schedule obtained by The Associated Press.

Both teams would play exhibition games at the Tokyo Dome on
March 28-29 against the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers. The
season-opening games would be played the following two days, and
the teams then would return home. They currently are set to resume
play against each other at Yankee Stadium starting April 5.

The Yankees, who feature former Yomiuri star Hideki Matsui, were
asked Monday by Bob DuPuy, major league baseball's chief operating
officer, if they would consider shifting two regular-season games
against the Devil Rays to Japan. The games in Japan would require
approval of both teams and the players' association.

"We're talking to a bunch of clubs, and certainly they're two
of them," commissioner Bud Selig said Thursday in Chicago. "I
want to open the season in Japan. ... I'm very confident of that,
very hopeful."

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner hasn't said whether he would
accept the offer. Steinbrenner declined to comment on the matter,
spokesman Howard Rubenstein said.

It would be just the second time the major league season opened
in Japan. The Chicago Cubs and New York Mets split a pair of games
at the Tokyo Dome in 2000.

The 2003 season was to have started in the same ballpark, which
is nicknamed the Big Egg. But a two-game series between the Oakland
Athletics and Seattle Mariners was scrapped because of travel
concerns before the U.S. war in Iraq.

If past practice is followed, the Yankees and Devil Rays would
be allowed to start spring training 45 days before the opener,
which would be Feb. 14.

Notes: Japanese reliever Shingo Takatsu and his wife met at Yankee
Stadium on Wednesday with New York general manager Brian Cashman
and assistant general manager Jean Afterman. Takatsu planned to go
to San Diego for a similar session with the Padres.