DURHAM — Hideki Matsui’s preferred destination isn’t with the Durham Bulls, but he’s creating quite a stir while he’s here.The Japanese star is taking up temporary residence with the Bulls, attracting an entourage not previously seen with the minor-league team.
The one-time Most Valuable Player of the World Series with the New York Yankees will have more notable company tonight when another element is added to the frenzy.Not only will Matsui be in the lineup, but the opposing pitcher will be Pawtucket right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka on an injury rehabilitation assignment from the Boston Red Sox.
“It’s exciting,” Bulls general manager Mike Birling said. “The Durham Bulls always seem to have one of these unique situations every year and this takes it to a new level.”
Matsui, 37, is on a minor-league contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. This is his first assignment after a stint in extended spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., to work on conditioning.“I’d like to join the Rays as soon as possible, but that all depends on what kind of results I put up down here,” Matsui said through his interpreter.The interpreter and personal public relations liaison are with Matsui, as has been the case during his career in the big leagues. An official with the Rays was also summoned to Durham to assist in the transition of this phase of Matsui’s quest to return to the major leagues after a retirement that didn’t mount to much more than a few months.There’s good reason for the oversight. Matsui is a national hero in Japan.With more than 30 Japanese media members on hand at the start of the homestand at Durham Bulls Athletic Park…