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Deal appears imminent

Posted by Staff  December 13, 2006 06:15 PM

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Information from the Associated Press and the Globe's Gordon Edes was used in this report.

BEDFORD, Mass. -- Daisuke Matsuzaka arrived in Massachusetts late this afternoon and headed immediately for Mass. General Hospital, presumably to have a physical in what would be the final hurdle in finalizing a longterm deal with the Red Sox.

Neither side has confirmed of a preliminary agreement, but itís been widely reported that the sides were near agreement on a $52 million, six-year contract.

After a 4-hour, 43-minute flight from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif., the Dassault Mystere 900 tri-jet of Boston owner John Henry landed at Laurence G. Hanscom Field in suburban Bedford at 5:16 p.m.

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino and general manager Theo Epstein were seen coming off the plane with Matsuzaka in a light rain. An SUV and sedan were waiting on the tarmac along with a police cruiser with flashing lights.

Several dozen fans were on hand to great Matsuzaka, who waved and smiled as he was driven away from the airport.

"WELCOME HOME DAISUKE," read one sign.

A radio station distributed signs that pictured two dice and a K -- Matsuzaka's first name is pronounced "Dice-K."

"We thought we'd just come out here to take a look at him. I'm glad they're getting some good pitching," said 46-year-old Mark Fairweather of Lincoln, who had his 8-year-old son, Nick, on his shoulders.

In prior days, agent Scott Boras had said he would not allow Matsuzaka to travel to Boston for a physical unless the sides had reached a preliminary agreement.

"You should assume a deal is close or done," an official with knowledge of the negotiations said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made.

People on both sides of the deal said the agreement was still being worked out, including $8 million in escalators that would bring the total to $60 million over six years. The contemplated terms were first reported by sportsillustrated.com and NECN-TV.

Boston officials had traveled to Newport Beach, Calif., on Monday on Henry's plane and said they would return Wednesday with or without Matsuzaka. The team and Matsuzaka have a midnight Thursday EST deadline to reach an agreement.

The Red Sox called a news conference for Wednesday afternoon to introduce shortstop Julio Lugo, who agreed to a $36 million, four-year deal last week.

Boston bid $51.1 million last month for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka. The Red Sox will pay that money to his Japanese team, the Seibu Lions, only if an agreement is reached.

If there is no deal, Matsuzaka's rights remain with the Lions and he cannot be offered to major league teams again until next November. He is not eligible to become a free agent in Japan until after the 2008 season.

Lucchino and Epstein showed up unannounced in California on Monday for face-to-face talks with Matsuzaka's agent, Scott Boras.

Red Sox officials left the building where Boras' offices are located shortly before 7 p.m. EST Tuesday, returned about four hours later and stayed for 40 minutes before leaving again.

The Red Sox had said they would present their second offer at the meeting. The large amount bid by the Red Sox for Matsuzaka's rights complicated negotiations. Boras said it shouldn't cause the team to decrease the salary he thinks his client deserves.

"Free agent pitchers who are 26 and have Matsuzaka-like ability receive salaries in excess of $100 million over five or six years in free agency," Boras said Monday night.

Epstein agreed Matsuzaka is worth $100 million, but his calculations include the posting fee.

"That magnitude is certainly the right ballpark for the commitment of the ballclub," Epstein said.

Matsuzaka has a 108-60 career record in Japan with a 2.95 ERA and 1,355 strikeouts in 204 games. He was MVP of the inaugural World Baseball Classic last March, won by Japan.

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