Hideki Matsui may not have cleared the fences, but that doesn’t mean he failed to impress.
Matsui, appearing in his first game since announcing he wants to play in the big leagues, went 1-for-3 with a single to right field in the seventh inning in the Yomiuri Giants’ loss to a team of major league All-Stars on Saturday night at the Tokyo Dome.
New York Mets manager Art Howe, who is piloting the MLB team during the series, told reporters before the game: “It’s a little premature right now to say what I think of Matsui. But I’m gonna keep my eye on him, that’s for sure.”
A few hours later, Howe was full of praise.
“He batted well tonight, he hit the ball hard and got a single and he just missed a double down the third-base line,” Howe said. “It looks like he uses the whole field and has a good idea of the plate.”
Matsui grounded out to third in the second inning, struck out in the fourth and hit a line-drive to short in the bottom of the ninth.
San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, who earlier joked that Matsui would look good in another Giants’ uniform next year, said Matsui was just getting warmed up.
“I’ve had the opportunity to play with him a couple of times,” Bonds said after the game. “He’s a good player and he’ll put on a good show for everybody before the series is over.
“He’s their main guy and I’d like to play with him over there in San Francisco.”
Matsui, who led the Central League this past season with 50 home runs and nearly won the Triple Crown while batting .334 with 107 RBIs, has fulfilled the nine-year requirement to be eligible to declare free agency and negotiate with major league teams.
The Yomiuri center fielder, nicknamed “Godzilla” because of his power and rugged complexion, has 332 career home runs.
He announced last week that he plans to go to the major leagues next year and the New York Yankees are widely considered the team that wants him most.
“Everybody wanted to come out and see Matsui tonight,” said Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi. “He’s a great player and maybe I’ll get a chance to play alongside him next year.”
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.