Ventura respects Matsui's skills, presence

Ventura respects Matsui's skills, presence

ST. PETERSBURG -- As manager Robin Ventura sat down to address a small group of media Tuesday afternoon in the visitor's dugout at Tropicana Field, one of his former teammates was surrounded by a horde of about 50 recorders, notepads and cameras in the home dugout.

Hideki Matsui was called up by the Rays on Tuesday, and Ventura has experienced first-hand the kind of attention the Japanese slugger receives. The two played together in 2003 with the Yankees, and Ventura had nothing but praise to offer about Matsui.

"There was a lot of pressure, and you can see that crowd today," Ventura said. "He's had that from Day 1, but he knows how to go about it. He's a great teammate. He understands with bringing all of that, what it means and some of the hassles and everything that comes with it. Great team guy."

Ventura, 44, also admired the 37-year-old Matsui's ability at the plate. He will likely face the White Sox the final two games of this series, and he was in the starting lineup Tuesday night, batting sixth and playing left field.

"He's a good player, we know that. He's a professional hitter. He does everything well. He's just older, that's all," Ventura said. "He's still a good player and knows how to hit. He's smart.

"You don't want him coming up with guys on base and two outs, I know that."