Sox Tuning Up For Opener.

Gordon Edes has Theo Epstein giving some thoughts on the state of his team, as the season opener looms on Monday. Jeff Goldberg has more from the Sox GM on his team. Tony Massarotti outlines three things you should keep your eye on with this edition of the Red Sox. Steven Krasner has Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen heading to Pawtucket to search for consistency.

Tony Massarotti tries to makes sense of the Red Sox payroll as it relates to the luxury tax and actual cash spending.

Edes also looks at Major League Baseball ruling once again that Johnny Pesky cannot sit in the dugout in uniform during the games. Michael Silverman looks at the outing by the club’s best pitching prospect, Clay Buchholz. Steve Buckley has the Red Sox adding 230 new seats to Fenway, and honoring Tony Conigliaro this season.

Edes notebook has the club taking a look at top prospect Buchholz by having him start yesterday’s exhibition game with the big club. Horrigan’s notebook has Jonathan Papelbon proclaiming himself OK after rolling his ankle yesterday. Goldberg’s notebook has more on Buchholz.

Japanese Baseball

The Globe also has a section on Japanese baseball, profiling some of the legends of the sport in that country. Are they selling this section in Japan?

Bob Ryan leads off with a history of the growth of the sport in Japan. Edes looks at how some Japanese stars have become stars here in the US as well. Dan Shaughnessy has a piece on the Babe Ruth of Japan, Sadaharu Oh, who hit 868 home runs in his career.

Edes also examines how oddsmakers, analysts and other Baseball cognoscenti project solid numbers for Matsuzaka. Amalie Benjamin observes that those covering Matsuzaka this season are going to find it to be no easy task. Benjamin also notes that Matsuzaka isn’t the only Japanese import this season, as Hideki Okajima will also be on the Red Sox, and there are several other Japanese players coming to the US this season on other teams. Finally, Edes also notes that owner John W Henry has certainly made some pricey investments in this edition of the Red Sox, including Matsuzaka.

The section also profiles seven of the top Japanese who came to play here in the US and made an impact, one way or another. Here are the players:

(Nick Cafardo wrote all of these with the exception of Irabu.)

Celtics

Jackie MacMullan has Paul Pierce weighing in on this season and the future for the Celtics. He would still like the Celtics to acquire a veteran player this offseason to help them go deep into the playoffs. The message seems clear…start winning next season, or risk losing Pierce.

Steve Bulpett says that without the injuries that the club suffered this season, they would just be another middle of the pack team, but with the injuries they now have a shot at a franchise player. Mike Fine has the Celtics appreciative of the fan support in this tough season. Michael Vega says that Pierce traveled with the club to Philadelphia, but whether he plays is a game-time decision.

Patriots

We’ve got a new edition of the BSMW Patriots Game Day roundtable posted this morning, looking at the team’s gains and losses in free agency and a little bit on the draft.

Shalise Manza Young says that it sure appears that the Patriots a shopping for a linebacker in the draft this year. Albert Breer reports that Chad Jackson’s knee injury made actually not be as bad as most ACL injuries are. He could actually be running by the time mini-camp comes in June. Mike Reiss has Kevin Faulk talking about his own injury in the AFC championship game, which limited him to only 10 of the teams 59 offensive plays that day.

Bruins

Kevin Paul Dupont wonders if Dave Lewis will be the fall guy for the Bruins this season.

Steve Conroyhas the Bruins falling to the Penguins once again, this time by a score of 4-2. Bud Barth notes that the loss officially eliminated the Bruins from the playoffs.

Fluto Shinzawa has Tim Thomas being awarded NESN’s Seventh Player Award for the second straight year. Mick Colageo has the fans showing their appreciation for Thomas with the award. Conroy’s notebook has more on Thomas. Barth’s notebook says it is time for the Bruins to do some more tinkering.

NCAA

Bob Ryan has a preview of the “Too Good To Be True” Final Four. Mark Murphy notes that the Final Four should be a scouting exercise for NBA fans, though he says Celtics fans should have eyes for only Greg Oden.

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