Sixty percent of the American League East signed a Japanese free agent during the off-season. The Boston Red Sox paid over 100 million dollars to bring starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka across the Pacific. The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays paid considerably less to sign pitcher Kei Igawa and third baseman Akinori Iwamura, respectively.
Matsuzaka started his major league career on a high note, defeating the Royals on April 5. He pitched seven innings, giving up only six hits and one walk while striking out 10 batters. This performance was important in order to keep critics from attacking General Manager Theo Epstein and the rest of Bostonís front office too early in the season.
Iwamura, the least publicized of the three Japanese stars prior to the season's commencement, led the league in hitting as of April 9 with a .529 batting average. Coupled with impressive defensive play, Iwamuraís performance at the plate has made him a steal thus far for the historically inept Devil Rays.
The organization faces a pleasant problem: a logjam on the left side of the infield. With Iwamura, skillful 22-year-old B.J. Upton, and super-prospect Evan Longoria all suited for the third base position, the talent must eventually be spread around to other positions, strengthening the teamís overall skill level.
As for the early-season performance of Igawa, letís just leave you with his statistics from his April 7 start against Baltimore.