Hideki Matsui Made His Presence Felt in His Tampa Bay Rays Debut

Jamal WilburgCorrespondent IMay 30, 2012

Hideki Matsui is who the Tampa Bay Rays thought he was.

Matsui signed a minor league contract with the Rays on April 30 and spent two weeks in extended spring training before joining the Rays' AAA affiliate Durham Bulls.

While in Durham, he played 13 games and hit a dismal .170 (8-for-47) with only two doubles, four walks and four RBI. He spent nine games at designated hitter, playing the other four in left field.

With such lackluster numbers in AAA, there was concern about whether Matsui, who will turn 38 on June 12, could make an impact on the major league roster.

Any doubters were briefly silenced in his second at-bat in Tropicana Field Wednesday night against the Chicago White Sox.

He hit his go-ahead, two-run home run in the fourth inning of what was at the time a scoreless game. The homer marked the third time he homered out of his four major league home debuts. His others came in 2003 with the Yankees and 2010 with the Angels.

Matsui seemed to look very comfortable with the Rays even though he was wearing No. 35 since Rays pitcher Matt Moore already has his traditional No. 55 taken. After the game through interpreter Roger Kahlon, he reflected on how his reception was by the team and the fans.

I was welcomed in a way that I have never experienced in my life before, let’s put it that way…Many of the fans gave their welcomes and whenever I went to the plate I had a lot of applause. I was very happy to see that.

Unfortunately for the Rays and their fans, they were the only runs scored in the game and the team would go on to lose the game 7-2.

Even in the loss, Matsui's contribution is good news for a team that has been struggling to score runs. In the first two games of the series, the Rays have scored a total of three runs, including Matsui's two-run homer.

Video of his home run can be seen here via Fox Sports Florida.


Jamal Wilburg is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

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