Matsui: Nothing to prove, just want to play
UPDATE, 1:06: Hideki Matsui said he welcomes the chance to get back on the field and has no issues with playing at Triple-A for the Rays, and has no deadline in his mind for how long he'd stay. As the Times reported Monday, there are no guarantees in his deal regarding a promotion to the majors.
"As far as the minor league offer, I think that really resembles where I'm at as far as myself as a baseball player,'' Matsui said at Tropicana Field this morning, through an interpretrer. "As far as the expectations from the Rays, really it's to hopefully join the team and be some kind of force for the team at the major league level."
The Rays plan for Matsui to report to Port Charlotte on Wednesday to join the extended spring program, then play a few games there before heading to Durham. Any decisions on timetable and readiness will be made in conjunction with Matsui, the Rays said.
Matsui said he will have no special travel privileges with Durham, and will be on the commercial flights and stay in the same hotels as the rest of the Bulls: "I'm a minor-leaguer.''
Matsui, who spent most of the off-season in New York working out, said he doesn't need long to get ready. "Physically I feel really good,'' he said. "I feel I'm in pretty good condition, so hopefully it shouldn't take too long.''
As for how long he'd stay in the minors, he said: "I guess I really don't have an answer for that right now."
Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said "there's nothing formal" in place regarding an "out clause" on how long Matsui would stay if he doesn't get called up, "but we're going to treat Hideki with the respect that he deserves. So we'll go through the process; it's difficult to put any hard and fast rules on anything. We're just going to operate each day like he's a member of the Rays and he's gettting ready and prepared to play baseball every day and well see what happens.''
If another team was interested in having Matsui in the majors and the Rays weren't, Friedman suggested, as they have in the past, most notably with Adam Kennedy, they would try to work something out. "We've demonstarted over time that we'll be extremely fair with players in our organaization and with someone of his caliber we're goign to treat him with the respect that he deserves and well see how things play out,'' Friedman said. "But we'll never be an issue in the process of him getting back to the major leagues where he belongs.''
Friedman said the Rays have had interest in Matsui over the last few years and were pleased they could work it out this year.
"We've always had a tremendous amout of respect for him and what he does in the batter's box, the type of person he is, the type of teammate he is, the success that he's enjoyed,'' Friedman said. "So he's always been someone that's been on our radar. We had some conversations this past offseason and is often the case things kind of go in different directions. so when the dust settled we had our roster set and Hideki was still going through the process. Near the end of spring training we spoke again and kind of agreed to stay in touch at that point.''
Matsui, who turns 38 in June, said he did not consider returning to Japan to play.
BREAKING: The Rays held a press conference this morning with newly signed Hideki Matsui, and it was obvious - by the more than 50 journalists and the two Japanese TV stations that carried the event live at midnight their time - how big a deal it was.
More to come later, but here is a recap of our Twitter posts:
Matsui says he doesn't have anything to prove, just wants to play. #Rays were team with most interest
Matsui says shouldn't take long to get in game shape, doesn't have "an answer" on how long he'd stay at #Rays AAA Durham team if no callup
he'd have no attachment to No. 55 if he gets to majors w#Rays, so Matt Moore should be good to go
Matsui says he'd have no attachment to No. 55 if he gets to majors w#Rays, so Matt Moore should be good to go
Two Japanese TV stations carried #Rays-Matsui press conference live at midnight
Friedman says "nothing formal" as far as out clause w/Matsui but they will "treat him" with proper respect
Friedman says plan is for Matsui to go to Port Charlotte, play in a few extended spring games then go to AAA Durham.
Matsui says he'll have no special travel privileges with #Rays Triple-A Durham team: "I'm a minor-leaguer."