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Dice-K en route

Posted by Gordon Edes, Globe Staff  December 13, 2006 03:03 PM

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The Red Sox contingent in Southern California is currently flying back to Boston with pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka and his agent, Scott Boras, on board.

“You can assume that a deal is done or close,” said one source with direct knowledge of the talks.

(NECN's Chris Collins and SI.com's John Heyman are reporting that a six-year deal worth $52 million has been struck, pending a physical. The reports did not cite any sources, nor could be confirmed.)

Team owner John W. Henry confirmed that Boras and Matsuzaka were flying back with the team, writing in an e-mail to the Associated Press: "They all took off together." Team president Larry Lucchino said shortly after noon EST that the plane was leaving California.

Boston sports radio station WEEI 850 AM has said they will have Henry live on the air sometime before 3:30 p.m.

GM Theo Epstein and the Sox contingent, which flew to California on Monday to talk face to face, essentially created a deadline of their own when they said that their intention was to return home to Boston this morning on Henry's private plane -- with Matsuzaka in tow so that he would have sufficient time to undergo a physical, which general manager Theo Epstein described as a nonnegotiable prerequisite to any deal.

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.

The Sox made a posting bid of $51.1 million to Matsuzaka's Japanese team, the Seibu Lions, for the right to negotiate with the pitcher for 30 days, a window that ends tomorrow night.

In a related note, a source told the Globe's Nick Cafardo that during the Matsuzaka negotiations, Boras was trying to sell the Red Sox on signing Chan Ho Park to be the team's closer.

The Red Sox called a news conference for 3:30 p.m. to introduce shortstop Julio Lugo, who agreed to a $36 million, four-year deal last week. With the top Red Sox brass still en route, manager Terry Francona and assistant general manager Jed Hoyer were to attend that event.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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