BOSTON (AP) – Red Sox president Larry Lucchino and general manager Theo Epstein flew 2,700 miles to Los Angeles to see Daisuke Matsuzaka. The pitching ace traveled twice that distance from Japan.

The man they all came to see was Scott Boras, Matsuzaka’s agent.

With the clock ticking toward a midnight EST Thursday deadline for Matsuzaka to sign, Lucchino and Epstein planned a day of talks Tuesday with Boras at the agent’s offices in Newport Beach, Calif., and hoped Matsuzaka would participate. Lucchino and Epstein left the building where the offices are located shortly before 7 p.m. EST and it was unclear when or if they would return.

Epstein wants Matsuzaka aboard – on a contract with the Red Sox and on principal owner John Henry’s plane when it returns to Boston. Epstein said that would provide the time needed for Matsuzaka to have a physical before a deal is finalized.

Boras said the decision whether Matsuzaka will join the Red Sox or return to Japan will be made by his client, who was MVP of the inaugural World Baseball Classic last March.

Epstein said the Red Sox planned to make a second offer even though Boras had not presented a counteroffer. Boras has emphasized his opposition to the posting system which requires a major-league team to bid for the right to negotiate with a Japanese player who is not a free agent.

The Red Sox were the high bidders at $51.11 million, which goes to the Seibu Lions, Matsuzaka’s team in Japan, if he signs with Boston. If he doesn’t, the Red Sox keep the money.

“We’re on Scott Boras’ doorstep because he hasn’t negotiated with us thus far and we’re taking the fight directly to him, the fight to have a negotiation here,” Henry said late Monday night.

Lucchino and Epstein flew to Los Angeles on Henry’s plane.

“It’s here in Southern California and it will leave on Wednesday morning,” Epstein said. “We hope Matsuzaka-san will be on it so that we can complete the physical in Boston in time to get a contract done.”

Boras has a reputation for negotiating down to deadlines. The deadline for Matsuzaka and Boston to reach an agreement is Thursday at midnight, but the team’s desire to have Matsuzaka travel to Boston for medical tests could reduce the available time.

“One thing is clear – D-Mat will someday be a major league player,” Boras said Monday night at a news conference at his office about 45 miles south of Los Angeles. “We have further negotiating to do. The deadline’s not here in 5 minutes. The parties do understand what this player’s value is in the free-agent system.”

Matsuzaka has a 108-60 career record in Japan with a 2.95 ERA and 1,355 strikeouts in 204 games.

Henry stayed home in Boca Raton, Fla. Tom Werner, chairman and part owner of the Red Sox, lives in the Los Angeles area and could join the talks.

“We flew out unsolicited and called immediately upon landing and asked for a meeting not only with Scott but also with Daisuke,” Epstein said late Monday. “We’re not frustrated. We’re just doing everything possible under the sun to get a deal done.”

At his news conference, Boras said, “Free agent pitchers who are 26 and have Matsuzaka-like ability receive salaries in excess of $100 million over five or six years in free agency.”

Epstein agreed Matsuzaka is worth $100 million – but, unlike Boras, Epstein includes the posting fee in his math.

“That magnitude is certainly the right ballpark for the commitment of the ballclub,” Epstein said.

If Matsuzaka returns to Japan, he can be put up for bid again next November. Under Japanese rules, Matsuzaka isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2008 season.



AP Sports Writer John Nadel in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

AP-ES-12-12-06 1916EST


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