Why No. 18 is so special for Dice-K

BOSTON -- Even though Johnny Damon is staying in Detroit after vetoing a chance to return to the Red Sox, here’s an interesting tidbit involving his old jersey number -- 18 -- which is currently worn by Daisuke Matsuzaka.

If Damon had decided to return to Boston, there was no way Matsuzaka would have surrendered his number. After talking with a few Red Sox players, the consensus is Damon wouldn’t even have asked for it.

Here’s why No. 18 is so important to Dice-K:

"During the Yomiuri Giants dynasty, when they won nine Japan Series in a row, the Giants gave the number 18 to their top starter,” Matsuzaka explained through a translator. “The number has been passed down as the ‘ace number’ ever since, and it's considered the top starter's number on teams across Japan.

“When I was growing up, I watched Masumi Kuwata wear 18 for the Giants, and it became my goal to wear 18 if I ever became a professional baseball player. That's why the number is so special to me. It might not be considered an ‘ace number’ here in the US, but it's a special number for pitchers in Japan."

Prior to Matsuzaka signing with Boston, wearing No. 18 was one of the stipulations in his contract.