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Archive for Monday, April 2, 2007

Big-time additions to take field

April 2, 2007

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— Some of the most high-profile additions either team ever has had will be in uniform when the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals open their season today.

Curt Schilling, the veteran All-Star right-hander, will oppose Kansas City's Gil Meche, whose five-year, $55 million free-agent contract set a Royals record.

Manning third base for the Royals will be rookie Alex Gordon, last season's minor-league player of the year and Kansas City's most highly touted prospect since Carlos Beltran.

Ready to make his much-anticipated American debut Thursday will be right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who cost Boston more than $100 million and will have about 125 Japanese media chronicling his every move.

The Red Sox, third last year in the AL East after eight consecutive second-place finishes, also will have an expensive newcomer in right field in veteran J.D. Drew and their 13th different opening-day second baseman in 14 years in Dustin Pedroia.

"Opening day is 24 hours away," Boston manager Terry Francona said Sunday as the Red Sox went through a light workout. "If you're not optimistic, you're crazy. But I think we have a legitimate reason to be optimistic. We think we've got a pretty good team."

The Royals have had only one winning season in the past 14 years. But they are cautiously confident they have improved enough to avoid a fourth-straight 100-loss campaign.

They did get a setback last week when right-hander Octavio Dotel, signed to close for a bullpen that blew a major-league-high 31 saves, came up with a strained muscle on his left side.

Manager Buddy Bell said Dotel, who has been two years coming back from reconstructive elbow surgery, would not be available until Wednesday at the earliest.

"We'll re-evaluate on Wednesday," Bell said. "If he's still having trouble then, there's a chance we might put him on the DL. We don't think it's a long-term situation."

Meche will be the Royals' sixth different opening-day starter in six years. The right-hander, 11-8 last year for Seattle, will be making his first opening-day start.

"I'm thrilled to death," the seven-year veteran said.

"I get to take the ball, go against Schilling, and give it all I've got. I've never done this before. I've always watched Jamie Moyer pitch opening day for the most part. I've always been excited to watch the game, but now to get to play in it is going to be a lot different."

The muscular, soft-spoken Gordon did nothing in the spring to dampen fan enthusiasm. He hit .317 with 12 RBIs, two triples and two home runs.

"A lot of Japanese reporters have been asking me about Dice-K since some people are saying he's the No. 1 prospect this year, and I'm the No. 2, or whatever," Gordon said. "It'll be exciting to face him. From what you hear, he's got awesome stuff."

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