EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

February 15, 2007

All Matsuzaka, all the time

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Did Omer Frechette know what he was getting into? Did anybody associated with the Red Sox truly realize what awaited them by the time Valentine's Day rolled around?



Well, they do now.



The job description for the Methuen native isn't hard to decipher: Perch yourself at the end of Edison Avenue, just on the outskirts of the Red Sox players' parking lot, and monitor the comings and goings. But as the man his co-workers call "Frenchy" discovered upon arriving in the wee hours of yesterday morning, thanks to the presence of Daisuke Matsuzaka, normalcy doesn't exist here anymore.



As early as 6:30 a.m., more than 50 members of the Japanese media straddled the street associated with both City of Palms Park (the site of Red Sox home spring training games) and Boston's minor league facility (where workouts are held until March rolls around).



Four hours later, Frechette was gone, giving up his ring-side seat to the Barnum and Bailey of spring training baseball. But none of the Far East media horde had budged, unwilling to yield their potential bird's-eye view of Matsuzaka.



Something else hadn't gone anywhere either - the crazy climate which promises to follow these Red Sox wherever they go this season.



Relief pitcher Javier Lopez was one of the few newcomers to the scene yesterday, reacquainting himself with the town he left four years ago during his last spring training stint with the Red Sox.



"A lot has changed," said the side-winding lefty. "I'm going to have to get used to this."



The Red Sox had more spring training media credential requests from Japan (130) than there are actual residents of Japanese descent living in the entire Lee County (125). Lopez was right, things have changed, although whether anybody will get used to them remains to be seen.



In almost a fraternity-like initiation to his old haunts, Lopez has found himself in the belly of the beast thanks to the placement of his locker. The makeshift cubicle resides directly across from Matsuzaka and all that comes with the 26-year-old right-hander.



"I know how to say, 'Good morning' - 'Ohayo,'" Lopez said proudly. "I better start learning something else, though, in case I see him in the afternoon."



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