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Red Sox, A's on pace to open season in Tokyo Dome

NEW YORK -- The Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics are
lined up to meet in a Tokyo Dome opener next season.

Major League Baseball gave the players' union a draft 2008
schedule on Monday, and the Red Sox would open the United States
portion of their schedule at Oakland, according to Gene Orza, the
union's chief operating officer.

Baseball officials have spent several months formulating a plan
in which the Red Sox -- with Japanese stars Daisuke Matsuzaka and
Hideki Okajima -- would start the season in Japan against an AL West
opponent, then return to the United States for a series at that
same AL West team.

"I am in favor of this decision," A's owner Lew Wolff said in
an e-mail to The Associated Press. "I think we will have an
injury-free season. But, as a precaution I plan to pick up some
healing herb and spices in Tokyo."

Orza said that while Boston and Oakland are leading candidates,
it's not a done deal yet.

"Nothing is fixed. Nothing is certain. Obviously, that's one of
the things we're looking at," he said.

Athletics player representative Huston Street said the club
seemed to like the idea.

"The team has pretty much approved it," the reliever said
before Monday's game at Seattle. "We're just waiting on word."

Street said he hadn't seen a copy of the draft schedule, so it
was news to him that the Red Sox might open the U.S. portion of the
season at Oakland.

The selection of the A's as Boston's likely opponent was first
reported Sunday by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The New York Mets and Chicago Cubs opened the 2000 season with a
two-game series in Tokyo, and the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays started the 2004 season with two games in Japan. A
scheduled 2003 series between Oakland and Seattle at the Tokyo Dome
was scrapped because of the threat of war in Iraq.

While the discussions for a Japan opener progressed, the
players' association postponed the deadline for the draft schedule,
which originally was June 30.

Baseball officials remain hopeful of playing exhibition games in
Beijing next March at the complex constructed for the 2008
Olympics.