BOSTON (AP) – Free agent first baseman Sean Casey finalized a contract with the Boston Red Sox and got a trip to Japan thrown in for free.

Casey said Tuesday he was excited about joining the Red Sox on their season-opening trip to Asia next month, even though the travel will make a long season even longer.

“You’ve just got to get your rest,” Casey said after a news conference at Fenway Park. “Guys should embrace the fact that we’re getting the opportunity of a lifetime to go to Japan.”

Casey agreed to an $800,000, one-year contract with the Red Sox to back up first baseman Kevin Youkilis. The Red Sox had been seeking a left-handed bat to come off the bench after letting Eric Hinske become a free agent after last season.

“I told them if Youk needs a day, I could spell him,” Casey said, adding that he could also fill in if Youkilis plays third to give Mike Lowell some rest.

A three-time All-Star and .301 hitter who spent eight of 11 major league seasons with Cincinnati, Casey hit .296 with four homers, 30 doubles and 54 RBIs in 143 games for Detroit last season.

The Red Sox will cut short their spring training to play a two-game series against the Athletics in Tokyo, then resume the exhibition season with a series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers before getting back into the regular season at Oakland and Toronto.

It’s all part of being the World Series champions – everyone wants a piece of you.

Or, in Casey’s case, wants to play for you.

“I’m at a stage in my career where I really wanted to come to a place where I had a chance to win,” he said. “Playing first base, you get a feel for what the guys are like. I remember playing them last year in Detroit, thinking, ‘What a great bunch of guys.”

Casey had some success in Detroit, reaching the 2006 World Series before the Tigers were swept by the St. Louis Cardinals.

“That was the first time in my career I was like, “This is what people must feel here,”‘ he said. “In Boston, they have that feeling a lot.”

Casey heard stories about playing in Boston from Todd Jones, who was with the Red Sox before joining the Tigers.

“He said it seems like Game 7 of the World Series every night,” Casey said. “When I was coming in here as a visiting player, I always thought it would be cool to hear that on the home side.”

Now, Casey is on the other side – a switch he completed on Sunday night, when his contract was all-but done with the Red Sox but the city’s attention was focused on the Super Bowl.

“I said, “I think I’ve got to root for the Patriots, right?”

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