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Rays' Matsui gets cake, starting spot for birthday

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 05:32 PM
ST. PETERSBURG -

Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter/outfielder Hideki Matsui was presented with a birthday cake by members of the Japanese media before Tuesday afternoon's batting practice, a tradition by those who cover Matsui for Japanese news outlets.

Matsui thanked them, blew out the candles and headed to the field in preparation for an interleague game with the New York Mets.

Matsui, who turned 38 Tuesday, was fifth in the batting lineup, serving as designated hitter against the Mets. Rays Manager Joe Maddon said he went with the left-handed Matsui over fellow lefty Luke Scott because, well, Tuesday wasn't Scott's birthday.

"It's very easy: It's Matsui's birthday," Maddon said. "That's it. It's Matsui's birthday. He's got to play today. I would be absolutely vilified in Tokyo if I didn't want to play him (Tuesday). There's no reason to not play him.

"Really, it'd be insane on my part to walk away from this potentially big night that he's going to have. Sometimes you've got to look beyond the stats and the data and the numbers and just look at the birthday."

Matsui celebrated by hitting a line derive off the wall with the bases loaded in his first at-bat. Poor Rays baserunning limited him to a single on the hit, though, and the Rays went on to lose to the Mets 11-2.

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