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Red Sox make moves to help Matsuzaka feel welcome

BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox starter Curt Schilling and pitching coach John Farrell are learning Japanese so they will be able to talk to Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima.

The Red Sox signed Okajima, a left-handed reliever, and bid
$51.11 million for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka. They have
30 days to negotiate a contract with the MVP of the World Baseball
Classic. That deadline looms Thursday night.

The Red Sox have said they will not comment on the negotiations.

Manager Terry Francona said Okajima and Matsuzaka would probably
enjoy having a compatriot on the team.

"I would hope that would be a help," Francona said at the
winter meetings this week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. "When this is
all said and done, the Red Sox are certainly going to make this as
easy a transition for whoever's here. We always do.

"I think we feel very strongly that the more comfortable
players are, the better success they are going to have. That's why
we try to spend so much time with our younger kids that come over
from the Dominican not speaking English because we think they are
going to be better players once they do that."

Jason Varitek is more worried about learning how to catch them.

"All of them always seem to understand something we all have in
common, the baseball knowledge," Varitek said Saturday, noting
that he caught Mac Suzuki when he was with the Mariners and Hideo
Nomo and Tomo Ohka in Boston. "Baseball is its own, universal
language."

Schilling is eager to do his part to help Matsuzaka feel
welcome.

"He is literally a national symbol," Schilling told fans at
Saturday's Christmas at Fenway event.

"I didn't realize what we had coming our way, and when I did I
wanted to make sure that both of them have someone on the staff
they at least know who is going to make an effort to be able to
communicate with them."

But Francona didn't think he'd have a problem communicating.

"For me, I can pat a guy on the back after eight good innings
in any language," he said. "That won't be difficult."