CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

Zambrano gets the call against Red Sox

Zambrano gets the call in opener with Red Sox

After a day off on Monday to lick the wounds from their 0-6 road trip, the Blue Jays settle in for a nine-game homestand at Rogers Centre that starts with Tuesday's opener of a three-game series against first-place Boston.

Unbeaten Josh Beckett is scheduled to face Jays right-hander Victor Zambrano. Ordinarily, the appearance of a visiting challenger to Roy Halladay's Cy Young Award aspirations might rate as the biggest event of the series. If not, then surely it would be Halladay's next start, coming Thursday against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

Instead, it is Wednesday's matchup that will draw the most media attention, at least across the Pacific Rim. Boston's high-priced Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-2, 5.45) will oppose Toronto's modest Tomo Ohka (2-3, 5.50) in a Japanese showdown that will set their native land abuzz.

More

Matsuzaka arrived with the acclaim of a rock star and expectations of immediate success. The Red Sox paid a $51.1 million posting fee to the Seibu Lions just for the rights to negotiate the eventual six-year, $52 million contract they gave him. It was the largest deal ever given a foreign-born player for his first Major League contract, eclipsing the four-year, $32 million package the Yankees gave Cuban defector Jose Contreras in December 2002.

Ohka, on the other hand, arrived in November 1998 with little acclaim, starting his career with Double-A Trenton in the Red Sox system and working his way to the big leagues with Boston in 1999. He has since pitched for the Expos/Nationals, Brewers and Blue Jays, amassing a 50-61 career record.

No Japanese pitcher other than Hideo Nomo (123) has more big-league wins than Ohka, yet he is virtually ignored in both North America and his native land. Matsuzaka is being tailed by an enormous contingent of media from Japan, and they have their biggest story hook yet with "Dice-K" facing his first countryman opponent in the Major Leagues.

They will encounter one problem: Ohka wants nothing to do with the hype.

Throughout the year, Ohka has been reluctant to discuss Matsuzaka and seems to wait with dread for the inevitable moment when an interviewer finally brings up the subject of the high-profile pitcher who has struggled thus far. When Ohka was told of Wednesday's pitching matchup pairing him and Matsuzaka, he smirked slightly and said, "So what?"

Ohka said he does not know Matsuzaka and has never pitched against him. Beyond that, he had nothing more to say. When asked about the large Japanese media presence expected for the game, he shrugged and said quietly, "Not for me."

Jays manager John Gibbons said he was interested to see how Ohka rises to the occasion under such scrutiny. Outpitching Matsuzaka on Wednesday could bring the measure of respect he seems to feel is lacking.

"Ohka's been pitching very well for us," Gibbons said. "He's been consistent on every team he's been on. It's a good challenge for him, and I guarantee he'll be up for the challenge.

"He didn't come here with the big name and all the fanfare. He's not getting the attention the other guy's getting. But if he goes out and beats him, he'll get a lot."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Josh Beckett (6-0, 2.72 ERA)
Beckett has not faced Toronto this season, but he is 1-2 with a 6.21 ERA in five career starts against the Jays. The former Marlins star has only pitched twice at Rogers Centre, where he is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA. He has allowed 12 earned runs in 12 innings from the Toronto mound, along with 15 hits -- seven of which were home runs.

TOR: RHP Victor Zambrano (0-1, 5.63 ERA)
Zambrano made one relief appearance against Boston earlier this season, pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings. In 18 career appearances against the Red Sox, including three starts, he is 5-3 with a 5.49 ERA.

Player to watch
Boston DH David Ortiz is 5-for-12 (.417) with two home runs, four RBIs and seven walks in his career against Zambrano.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• RSN

On radio
• FAN 590

Up next
• Wednesday: Red Sox (RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka, 3-2, 5.45) at Blue Jays (RHP Tomo Ohka, 2-3, 5.50), 7:07 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Red Sox (RHP Tim Wakefield, 3-3, 2.11) at Blue Jays (RHP Roy Halladay, 4-1, 3.59), 7:07 p.m. ET
• Friday: Devil Rays (LHP Scott Kazmir, 2-1, 3.71) at Blue Jays (RHP A.J. Burnett, 2-3, 5.09), 7:07 p.m. ET

Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less