Sox have Matsuzaka over for dinner

Sox have Matsuzaka over for dinner

Before getting to the main course -- a signed contract -- the Red Sox decided to have prized Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka over for dinner.

According to published reports, the dinner took place at the Southern California home of Red Sox chairman Tom Werner on Saturday. Matsuzaka, who had already been in Los Angeles with agent Scott Boras, was entertained by not just Werner, but also Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry, club president/CEO Larry Lucchino, general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona.

Boras was also present at the meal, though it was said to be far more of a social setting than any form of contract negotiations.

"It was important for us to show Matsuzaka respect," Werner told The Boston Globe. "We thought it appropriate to give him a sense of how much appreciation we have for starting the process and to show him we care a lot about making him feel comfortable about the organization in Boston."

The Red Sox landed exclusive negotiating rights to Matsuzaka by posting a record-setting bid of $51.1 million to the Seibu Lions. The sides have until the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 15 to strike a deal with Matsuzaka.

Epstein vowed at a press conference last week that the negotiations with Matsuzaka would be done quietly, without leaks to the media. Thus far, that has proved accurate as there have been no details forthcoming about what kind of progress has been made between Boras and Epstein.

Speculation is that the Red Sox would like to secure Matsuzaka for as long as possible, while Boras is in favor of a shorter contract -- perhaps three years -- that would allow the pitcher an out to become a free agent at the end of the pact.

Matsuzaka confirmed the meeting with the Red Sox to Japanese reporters, who spotted him at a Lakers-Bulls game at the Staples Center.

"Meeting the Boston owner, GM and the manager is the most impressive thing about this trip," Matsuzaka told the assembled media. "I feel close to becoming a Major League player."

Matsuzaka is reportedly headed to Japan to tie up some loose ends back home. Perhaps next time he arrives in the United States, the sides will be ready to have him put his pen to the dotted line.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.