Dice-K picked to start Sox's opener in Tokyo

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TAMPA, Fla. --- Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka will start the Boston Red Sox's regular-season opener against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 25.

"I think that will be a ton of excitement," Boston manager Terry Francona said Monday. "I know he's honored."

Jon Lester will pitch the second game of the two-game series with the Athletics the next day.

Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield will be on the hill for exhibition games in Japan prior to the regular-season contests.

Right-hander Josh Beckett , who will not travel to Japan because of a back injury, threw from 120 feet Monday.

"Another good day," Francona said. "So probably he's going to come along fairly quickly."

YANKEES: Joba Chamberlain could be headed back to the bullpen officially this week.

Chamberlain said he expects to meet with New York manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland on Wednesday to discuss his role.

The right-hander went 2-0 with an 0.38 ERA out of the bullpen last year during his first season.

Chamberlain has worked as a starter this spring and eventually will join the rotation. But with five other healthy starting pitchers in camp, he is expecting to be the setup man for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera when the regular season starts.

CARDINALS: Juan Gonzalez missed his seventh consecutive spring training game Monday and is losing ground in his effort to win a spot with St. Louis.

Gonzalez underwent an MRI exam Friday for an abdominal injury. The 38-year-old, who got only one at-bat the past three seasons, said he was told by team doctors that the injury is not serious.

PRICEY CARDS GONE


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --- Burglars busted into Dan's Sports Cards in Orange Park early Monday and stole a set of baseball cards worth $50,000, including a rare Mickey Mantle rookie card.


Owner Dan Williams said the burglary occurred shortly before 3 a.m. He said someone cut power to the strip mall where his shop is located and then broke in by throwing a piece of concrete through the glass front door.


Williams said the Mantle card is worth about $20,000. He placed the total loss at $100,000.


-- Morris News Service


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