Native son Dice-K will start Red Sox opener; Beckett throws again Monday

Updated: March 18, 2008, 4:41 PM ET
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka will start Boston's regular-season opener against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 25.

"I think that will be a ton of excitement," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before Monday's exhibition game against the New York Yankees. "I know he's honored."

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Jon Lester will pitch the second of the two-game series with the A's in Japan on March 26.

Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield will be on the hill for exhibition games in Japan prior to the regular-season contests. Buchholz will start against the Hanshin Tigers on Saturday, and Wakefield against the Yomiuri Giants on Sunday. Buchholz allowed two hits over four scoreless innings in a Triple-A game Monday.

Matsuzaka was scheduled to return to camp Monday after missing the previous two days following the birth of his son Saturday.

"Those four guys have pretty much known that for probably a week," Francona said. "Again, just because of Dice-K's situation. I don't want to say it was in limbo because Dice-K was prepared to pitch. There's just proper ways to do things. He went home, and things kind of broke anyway. He was all set to go."

The Red Sox opted not to move up Wakefield.

"If you just go on deserving, and wins, losses, [Wakefield is] the guy that goes in there," Francona said. "I think we kind of fought the urge just because when he's not in our rotation we're not as good a team. We want him to make his 30 starts."

Right-hander Josh Beckett, who will not travel to Japan because of a back injury, threw from 120 feet Monday.

"Another good day," Francona said. "So probably he's going to come along fairly quickly."

Beckett could pitch in minor league games in Florida. It's not known when he will make his first regular-season start.

"It's all according to how he feels," Francona said. "To do anything differently would be silly on my part. He's going to go as fast as he can, we know that."

In minor league games Monday, Coco Crisp (groin) went 1-for-5 and Bobby Kielty (right calf) went 1-for-4. The two outfielders will play in minor league games again Tuesday.

Boston optioned right-handers Craig Hansen and Lincoln Holdzkom, catcher George Kottaras, and first baseman-outfielder Chris Carter to Triple-A Pawtucket.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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