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Eight-game trip is 2nd in three years

11/3/2004

TOKYO -- Less than a week after celebrating a World Series title, Manny Ramirez is in Japan for more baseball -- and a little sushi.

Ramirez, Boston Red Sox teammate David Ortiz and 26 other major-league players arrived in Japan on Wednesday to take on a team of All-Stars from Japan's professional leagues.

"I love Japan and the Japanese people," said Ramirez, who is making his second trip to Japan. "I'm looking forward to eating some sushi and playing against some great players."

The eight-game trip from Nov. 5-14 is the second in three years to Japan for the major leagues and will feature games in Tokyo, Fukuoka, Osaka, Sapporo and Nagoya. The first team of major-leaguers visited Japan in 1908.

Game 1 will be at Tokyo Dome on Friday. San Diego Padres manager Bruce Bochy said Roger Clemens will start for the major-leaguers. He'll face Yomiuri Giants ace Koji Uehara, considered one of the of the best pitchers in Japan.

Bochy likes the power and speed in his lineup.

"There are no weaknesses on this team," he said. "You can do things with the hit and run, and you don't have to wait for someone to hit it out."

Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui are not on the major-league roster, but Japanese pitchers Akinori Otsuka of the Padres and Kazuhisa Ishii of the Los Angeles Dodgers made the trip and will face their former teammates.

"I looked over the roster and they have a very strong team," said Otsuka, who went 7-2 with two saves for the Padres this season. "But I've been a Red Sox fan for a long time and am thrilled to be playing on the same team as Manny and David."

Ishii, who had 13 wins for the Dodgers, would like a little sleep before taking the field.

"I'm looking forward to going to bed tonight," the former Yakult Swallows pitcher said. "Winning is the most important thing, but I also want to show my teammates the good things about Japan and not the bad things."

Sadaharu Oh, the great home run hitter, will manage the Japanese All-Stars. Seibu Lions ace Daisuke Matsuzaka, who led his team to a Japan Series victory and picked up a win against champion Cuba at the Athens Olympics, will take the mound in the second game.