• Kyodo

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New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner says he expects Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui to deliver the goods and “have a big impact” on the club and the city.

“Too many of our scouts have said, ‘He’ll do it, boss,’ for me (to be concerned),” Steinbrenner said in an exclusive interview with the New York Daily News, a week after Matsui agreed with the Yankees on a three-year, $21 million deal.

“I think he’ll have a big impact. There’s a large Japanese population in New York. We just have to be patient with him and he’ll deliver,” he was quoted as saying in the daily’s on-line edition Sunday.

Matsui is the second Japanese star to join the Yankees during Steinbrenner’s 30-year club ownership following Hideki Irabu, who was traded to the Montreal Expos after three years after his relationship with the owner turned sour.

During spring training in 1999, Irabu’s last season with the Yankees, Steinbrenner called him “a fat . . . toad.” The right-hander signed with the Hanshin Tigers earlier this month as he returns to Japanese baseball after six years in the major leagues.

Steinbrenner said the acquisition of Matsui and Jose Contreras, a Cuban defector who agreed to join the Bronx club last week, is part of the Yankees’ global strategy that is within a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“We’re going more global than ever before. If we have to pay a penalty for going over and our fans are coming forward with their hard-earned money for us, we’ll do it. We’re going to put the best product out there we can,” he was quoted as saying.

Steinbrenner was referring to the Yankees’ working agreement reached last month with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Central League, for whom Matsui played for the last 10 seasons. They earlier signed a similar deal with English soccer club Manchester United.

“Where do you get the best player in Cuba and the best player in Japan for the price I got them for? We’ve made some very good buys. And we’re not done yet,” he said of the deals worth a combined $53 million.

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