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Dice-K gets call for Tokyo opener

Kyodo

Boston Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka will start the first game of the regular season against the Oakland Athletics at Tokyo Dome on March 25, club manager Terry Francona said Monday.

Matsuzaka will become the second Japanese pitcher in the major leagues to start the first game of a regular season after former Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Hideo Nomo in 2004.

He became a father for the second time after the birth of a son Saturday morning, and returned to the team’s camp Monday.

“I’m very honored to pitch Opening Day,” Matsuzaka told reporters. “Although I’m replacing (Josh) Beckett, I feel very lucky to be able to pitch.”

With Beckett, the ace of the team and a 20-game winner last season, sidelined with back woes, Matsuzaka got the nod as the Opening Day starter.

“I love pitching in Tokyo Dome. I’m looking forward to that,” Matsuzaka said. “The first game is important because it’s not just for me. I have to pitch for the team. With what Opening Day represents, you have to show fighting spirit for the team.”

Left-hander Jon Lester will pitch the second game of the opening series, Francona said.