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Thursday, November 20, 2003
Steinbrenner hasn't given the go-ahead

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees would play the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in Tokyo on March 30-31 if they decide to go ahead with a season-opening trip to Japan.

The Yankees and Devil Rays would leave the United States on March 25 and arrive in Japan the following day, according to a draft schedule obtained by The Associated Press.

Both teams would play exhibition games at the Tokyo Dome on March 28-29 against the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers. The season-opening games would be played the following two days, and the teams then would return home. They currently are set to resume play against each other at Yankee Stadium starting April 5.

The Yankees, who feature former Yomiuri star Hideki Matsui, were asked Monday by Bob DuPuy, major league baseball's chief operating officer, if they would consider shifting two regular-season games against the Devil Rays to Japan. The games in Japan would require approval of both teams and the players' association.

"We're talking to a bunch of clubs, and certainly they're two of them," commissioner Bud Selig said Thursday in Chicago. "I want to open the season in Japan. ... I'm very confident of that, very hopeful."

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner hasn't said whether he would accept the offer. Steinbrenner declined to comment on the matter, spokesman Howard Rubenstein said.

It would be just the second time the major league season opened in Japan. The Chicago Cubs and New York Mets split a pair of games at the Tokyo Dome in 2000.

The 2003 season was to have started in the same ballpark, which is nicknamed the Big Egg. But a two-game series between the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners was scrapped because of travel concerns before the U.S. war in Iraq.

If past practice is followed, the Yankees and Devil Rays would be allowed to start spring training 45 days before the opener, which would be Feb. 14.

Notes: Japanese reliever Shingo Takatsu and his wife met at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday with New York general manager Brian Cashman and assistant general manager Jean Afterman. Takatsu planned to go to San Diego for a similar session with the Padres.