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02/20/11 3:20 PM EST
Matsui greeted by ... Godzilla?
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- An amused Andrew Bailey sat on the stationary bike Sunday morning, his eyes wandering the clubhouse as a large handful of Japanese reporters filed into the room in anticipation of Hideki Matsui's arrival. "It feels like Santa's coming to town," Bailey said, teammates laughing nearby as the A's closer broke out into Christmas song. Down the line stood an inflatable Godzilla that was nearly dressed head to toe in a yellow A's jersey, jock strap and blinding white cleats -- all courtesy of resident clubhouse jokester Dallas Braden, who bought the spikes in Japan. All of the buzz, evocative of a New Year's Eve countdown, came to a sudden silence when Matsui, casually dressed in jeans and a gray hooded sweatshirt, slowly walked into the clubhouse. Stares abounded, but mouths remained quiet for a few slightly awkward seconds while a startled Matsui waved and made his way toward his inflatable twin at his locker. "When he came in, I don't think he saw it at first," manager Bob Geren said. "When he did, he said that it was funny, and it loosened everyone up. There was a moment there where we weren't sure if he thought it was funny or not. It was like a comedian opening at a night club, and he does his first joke and it's like crickets. But then they start laughing later." Matsui, speaking through translator Roger Kahlon later in the day, admittedly felt the same way. "I sensed everyone was staring at me, so it was kind of awkward," he said. "I don't know if I looked weird or I did something, or what was going on." Ultimately, though, much humor was found in Braden's creation -- Oakland's alternate home yellow jersey reminds Matsui of his high school uniform -- and vast appreciation was felt by the team's overall welcome effort. "I was really surprised," Matsui said. "I was really wondering when I was told to come by about 8:30 and really didn't understand, and now I clearly know why. It was just a very pleasant surprise. "Godzilla is the last character I ever thought would welcome me." It was back to business quickly after, as Matsui met a few teammates and got acquainted with his surroundings. He never made it onto the field, though, as a downpour of rain shortened the day's workouts. Still, he was able to hit in the indoor batting cages and undergo light stretching. Sunny weather is expected for Monday, when Matsui is slated to take part in the team's first full-squad workout. He'll primarily take part in hitting activities, Geren said, but will be given the chance to use his glove in the outfield for insurance sake. The A's skipper, while addressing more than 30 reporters (nearly 25 made up the Japanese contingent) on Sunday morning, noted that Matsui will likely rotate with Josh Willingham in the fourth and fifth spots of the lineup this season. Much of the decision, he said, will be based on Daric Barton and David DeJesus' positioning in the No. 2 and 3 holes. Matsui said he has no preference as to where he's placed in the lineup, though he joked that he can also lead off and add one stolen base to the numbers -- .300 average, 30 homers -- his father, Masao, predicted for his son just a day prior. "Those are pretty good numbers," Matsui said. "If I can reach those numbers, that's definitely going to be a help to the team." The two-time All-Star hit .274 with 21 homers and 84 RBIs for the Angels in 2010, following a year that saw him tally 28 homers and 90 RBIs with the Yankees. Those numbers have impressed Geren and Co. just as much as his professional presence. "We're happy he's here," Geren said. "He looks like he's going to have a good time with these guys."