Saturday, May 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Hideki Matsui says Tampa Bay Rays had most interest in signing him

ST. PETERSBURG — Hideki Matsui wants to get back to the majors and play for the Rays.

But first he has to show he is still capable by playing at Triple-A Durham.

And in Tuesday's introductory appearance after signing a minor-league deal with the Rays, he said he was ready to do just that — and to ride the busses for hours and take the early morning commercial flights as well.

"I'm going to be a minor-leaguer," Matsui said through his interpreter, "so I'm going to travel like a minor-leaguer."

Despite being an All-Star in the Japanese and major leagues and making more than $80 million in the United States, Matsui, who turns 38 in June, said he had no problem taking a minor-league deal that did not include any guarantee of a callup or an out clause.

"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.

After playing nine seasons in the majors (2003-09 with the Yankees) and hitting .251 for Oakland last season, Matsui went unsigned but wanted to keep playing in the states, with no thoughts of returning to Japan. The Rays had interest, executive vice president Andrew Friedman said, and after they ended up signing Luke Scott and Carlos Peña, they kept the conversation ongoing, keen to the idea of adding depth.

"We've always had a tremendous amount 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."

Even though Matsui signed a minor-league deal (with the terms not available), it was still major news in Japan. About 50 Japanese journalists were at the Trop (and most headed to Port Charlotte), and the news conference was carried live on two networks in Japan, where it was midnight.

Matsui will report first to Port Charlotte, working out for the first time this morning with the extended spring group. The plan is for him to play a few games there, then report to Durham by mid May. Matsui, who spent most of the offseason in New York working out, said he isn't far from being ready: "Physically I feel really good. I feel I'm in pretty good condition, so hopefully it shouldn't take too long."

Asked how long he'd stay in the minors, Matsui said: "I guess I really don't have an answer for that right now."

Though "there's nothing formal" in place regarding an out clause if Matsui doesn't get called up, Friedman said if another team was interested in having him in the majors, they would, as they have in the past, try to work something out: "We've demonstrated over time that we'll be extremely fair with players in our organization and with someone of his caliber we're going to treat him with the respect that he deserves. … But we'll never be an issue in the process of him getting back to the major leagues where he belongs."

Though the interim steps are somewhat uncertain, Matsui is clear on the end game. "It's to hopefully join the team," he said, "and be some kind of force for the team at the major-league level."

Comments

For starters: Rays vs. Orioles; Ryne Stanek makes first start, Carlos Gomez returns

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' bullpenning experiment continues, with right-hander Ryne Stanek to open this afternoon's game against the Orioles at Tropicana Field. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10.It is the first career start for Stanek, who has ...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Rays trade closer Alex Colome, outfielder Denard Span to Mariners

Rays trade closer Alex Colome, outfielder Denard Span to Mariners

ST. PETERSBURG – In January, sure.In July, absolutely.But, now?And, once again, for someone who they hope helps in the future.The Rays made a shocking trade at a surprising time of year Friday, dealing All-Star closer Alex Colome and Tampa...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays journal: Rays shut out by Orioles in opener

Rays journal: Rays shut out by Orioles in opener

By Joey JohnstonTimes CorrespondentST. PETERSBURG — Rays LHP Ryan Yarbrough deserved better Friday. But the offense didn't offer much, allowing the Orioles to escape with a 2-0 victory before an announced crowd of 11,354 at Tropicana Field."It ...
Published: 05/25/18
Rays trade Alex Colome and Denard Span to Mariners for prospects

Rays trade Alex Colome and Denard Span to Mariners for prospects

The Rays made a major trade Friday afternoon, sending All-Star closer Alex Colome and OF Denard Span to the Mariners.The return is two minor-leaguers, RHP Andrew Moore and RHP Tommy Romero. The Rays also sent cash to the Mariners.Span, a Tampa produc...
Published: 05/25/18
For starters: Sergio Romo on mound tonight as Rays open series against Orioles

For starters: Sergio Romo on mound tonight as Rays open series against Orioles

By JOEY JOHNSTONTimes CorrespondentST. PETERSBURG — For openers, the Rays will use RHP Sergio Romo, the 35-year-old career reliever, as tonight's starter against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.Romo is making his third career "sta...
Published: 05/25/18
Alex Cobb excited about return “home” to Trop even in Orioles orange

Alex Cobb excited about return “home” to Trop even in Orioles orange

RHP Alex Cobb has already pitched twice against his former Rays mates in Baltimore and said it didn't feel that weird, especially since there were so many new faces in the lineup.But coming back to the Trop, where he made his big-league debut and spe...
Published: 05/25/18
Willy Adames goes back to AAA, leaving Rays with “a lot to be excited about’

Willy Adames goes back to AAA, leaving Rays with “a lot to be excited about’

Willy Adames' first stint in the major leagues ended as planned Thursday night when he was optioned back to Triple-A Durham at the end of his planned three-game cameo filling in for new father Joey Wendle.Adames said going back down was "tough" even ...
Published: 05/25/18
Rays journal: Blake Snell, flying Denard Span finally solve Red Sox

Rays journal: Blake Snell, flying Denard Span finally solve Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — Having lost two straight and nine of 12 times overall to the Red Sox, the Rays needed two things to go right Thursday:First, a strong start from Blake Snell.Second, some early runs against Rick Porcello from an offense that had...
Published: 05/24/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Home cooking clearly agrees with OF Denard Span. The 34-year-old Tampa product continues to deliver, producing at the plate, running the bases, making diving catches in the outfield, and Thursday, even going over the short sidewall twice in hot pursu...
Published: 05/24/18
Rays once again will ‘open’ with relievers this weekend

Rays once again will ‘open’ with relievers this weekend

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays weren't kidding about being serious that starting relievers gives them the best chance to win.So much so, they plan to do so again this weekend against the Orioles — in all three games. The plan is for Sergio Rom...
Published: 05/24/18