Matsui, Rays off to good start despite loss
Outfielder homers in second at-bat of 2012 debut
ST. PETERSBURG -- Hideki Matsui announced his arrival to the Rays in grand fashion Tuesday night when he homered in his second at-bat.
The Rays selected the veteran slugger from Triple-A Durham on Tuesday and he found himself in the lineup hitting sixth in the Rays' 7-2 loss to the White Sox at Tropicana Field.
After flying out to left in the second inning, Matsui broke up a scoreless tie with a two-run homer to right off White Sox starter Philip Humber in the fourth that put the Rays up 2-0.
"It was nice to hit the home run," said Matsui through interpreter Roger Kahlon. "We lost the game, but from a personal standpoint, it was nice to get that first home run in that moment."
Humber put the ball where he wanted to put it, but the right-hander said Matsui just had a good swing.
"He's a good batsman," Humber said. "He's been a quality batsman in this league for a long time. First pitch of the at-bat, I felt like it was a pretty decent pitch, but he put a good swing on it. You've got to tip your cap sometimes. He's a good hitter, and it's not a mistake he's been around as long as he has."
Rays manager Joe Maddon, like most of the crowd of 13,735, felt the buzz created by Matsui's blast, which was his 11th in 62 career games at Tropicana Field.
"I thought it was great, really great," Maddon said. "He gets us on top and you think we might roll from that moment on. New guy in town comes in, hits homer, top starting pitcher going and has really good stuff. You think you might roll it from there, but it just didn't work out."
Matsui, who has now homered in three of his last four games at Tropicana Field, finished with one hit in four trips to the plate, earning Maddon's praise in the process.
"He looked really good," Maddon said. "I thought he had good swings all night. Good at-bats."
Maddon also got a good feel for the quality of Matsui's character from a pregame chat when Maddon asked him if he felt good enough to start in left field since he had flown in late Tuesday afternoon from Indianapolis.
"He's a really nice man, respectful man," said Maddon of their conversation. "I just told him a couple of things. I told him to go out there and have fun, which he did. I'm not into overly instructing good baseball players.
"It's really a pleasure to have him here based on what I've heard in the past. Even in a brief meeting I can see everything I've heard is true."
In addition to the good vibe he received from his blast, Matsui was accorded a pregame salute from the team once he walked back to the clubhouse from his initial meeting with the large media contingent.
Matsui received the raucous welcome normally reserved for the hero of the game. The welcome came complete with music, strobe lights and a lighting of the Captain Morgan light.
"It was not my idea, though I was good with it," Maddon said. "The boys planned a nice reception for him and I think he enjoyed it himself, just trying to get him accustomed to the cultural shift that he's going to experience by playing here."
Matsui smiled when asked about the team's greeting toward him.
"I was welcomed in a way that I have never experienced in my life before, let's put it that way," Matsui said.
Naturally the follow-up question dealt with whether the Yankees ever held such celebrations. Again Matsui smiled.
"They're not quite a team like that," he said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.