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Sunday, March 30
Updated: March 31, 4:20 PM ET
Club's tactics in newspaper ad rile Yankees

Associated Press

TORONTO -- Hideki Matsui hasn't even made his major league debut and he's already noticed one big difference from Japan.

Matsui arrived in Toronto with the New York Yankees and was greeted by an advertisement the Blue Jays took out in the Sunday newspapers urging fans -- in English and Japanese -- to come out and boo him.

"In Japan, there's not that much booing so I didn't hear much for myself or other players," he said through an interpreter. "I'm a little happy that the fans are aware of my name."

Some of the other Yankees weren't so pleased by the ad, which also showed the team's cap covered with bird droppings.

"I thought it was tasteless, especially in the climate of what's going on in the world today," New York manager Joe Torre said. "I understand fun and games, but I thought it was just too much."

General manager J.P. Ricciardi said he talked to Torre about it and tried to smooth over any bad feelings.

The Blue Jays said they were just trying to have fun and reverse an attendance slide that has cut the fan base from more than 4 million in 1993 to just over 1.6 million last year.

"We respect the Yankee tradition and we know they've been the dominant team recently," said Jim Bloom, the director of consumer marketing. "With that comes a sense of rivalry. When the show comes to town, they have to expect us to use that."

Bloom said the team has taken precautions to guard against fans booing the U.S. national anthem and "God Bless America" after that happened at a Montreal Canadiens' game earlier this month.

The ad was taped up to a door in the Yankees' clubhouse and the players took notice.

"Everybody's trying to get us," catcher Jorge Posada said. "But we still have to do what we've got to do and that's win games."

The Blue Jays are expecting a sellout for the game, which Roger Clemens will start for the Yankees against Roy Halladay. They're giving out bobblehead dolls of Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske to help drum up interest.

Matsui is one of the favorites for this year's award, after leaving the most famous team in Japan to sign a $21 million, three-year contract with the most famous team in the majors.

The Yankees courted him for nearly a year before bringing him to the United States from the Japan League's Yomiuri Giants.

Like a Broadway show, Matsui will open in Toronto and St. Petersburg, Fla., before making his debut on the big stage at Yankee Stadium next Monday.

After hitting .324 with three homers and 10 RBI in an impressive spring, Matsui will try to perform when it counts.

"I'll approach him like any other hitter," Halladay said. "There's no question that a guy like that coming over will have a lot of attention and expectations."

Matsui's every move has been chronicled by the dozens of Japanese media who traveled to cover him. The Blue Jays said there were 97 requests from Japanese media for credentials for the opener. The game will also be shown live in Japan at 9:05 a.m. local time.

"The kind of pressure that comes from the outside I don't have any control of," he said. "Anything I can control I'll try to. I'll try not to be concerned about all the pressure."

Matsui was a three-time MVP in the Central League, hitting 332 homers in 10 seasons, including 50 last year.

While his prodigious power earned him the nickname Godzilla, Matsui has impressed the Yankees with his disciplined approach at the plate.

Matsui is the first power hitter to come over from Japan and some scouts questioned whether he'd be able to adjust as easily as slap-hitting Ichiro Suzuki did with Seattle, when he won the AL MVP award as a rookie two years ago.

"What surprised us about Hideki was not the numbers, just his approach to hitting," Torre said. "Because he hit so many home runs and struck out a lot in Japan, I expected more of a long swing as opposed to the compact swing he has. He can make adjustments a lot easier than if he was only a pull home run hitter. I certainly see a benefit to that approach, especially on a ballclub trying to cut down on its strikeouts."

Clemens, seven wins shy of 300, will make his fourth Opening-Day start in five seasons with the Yankees and 13th of his career -- one shy of Jack Morris and Walter Johnson's AL record.

Clemens, playing what he says will likely be his last season, isn't too concerned yet with becoming the 21st pitcher to win 300 games.

"I'm not worried about it until I get to 299. You can't win all those games in one start," he said. "The only time it will be a little distraction is the handful of days leading up to it."

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