Weary Red Sox arrive in Japan after long flight, pay dispute resolved
TOKYO -- All Daisuke Matsuzaka and his teammates were interested in was getting a little sleep.
The Boston Red Sox arrived in Tokyo early Friday after an 18-hour flight and the resolution of a last-minute dispute that threatened their season-opening trip to Japan.
Matsuzaka drew the most attention from a large group of Japanese photographers that greeted the Red Sox at the airport. There were few fans on hand for the early morning landing and the Red Sox headed straight for their hotel.
"It was a long flight but we're happy to be here," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said. "The players are tired but are looking forward to playing some baseball."
The Red Sox and Athletics each play two exhibition games against Japanese teams on March 22 and 23. Then they face each other in Major League Baseball's regular-season opener on March 25, the earliest start in MLB history, and again on March 26.
For a while, it looked like the World Series champions might not make it.
The players threatened to boycott their final preseason game in Florida on Wednesday and their travel plans for Tokyo unless a dispute over paying coaches for the trip to Japan was resolved. A settlement was reached after talks among players from the Red Sox and Athletics, Major League Baseball, and the players' association.
"It was just a misunderstanding," Lucchino said. "Everything has been settled now."
Matsuzaka is scheduled to be the Opening Day starter at Tokyo Dome next week against Oakland.
Boston has exhibition games on Saturday against the Hanshin Tigers and Sunday against the Yomiuri Giants.
Ace right-hander Josh Beckett did not make the trip because of a back injury.
Boston and Oakland will be the third set of teams to open the regular season at the Tokyo Dome, following the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs (2000), and the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay (2004). A scheduled 2003 series between Oakland and Seattle at the Tokyo Dome was canceled because of the threat of war in Iraq.
The A's arrived a few hours earlier at Narita Airport.
"Put me on the front page," said Joe Blanton, the Opening Day starter for the A's, when his photo was taken by Japanese photographers.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press