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Oakland A's Hideki Matsui takes batting practice during spring training workouts at Papago Baseball Park Complex in Phoenix, Ariz., on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011. (Dan Honda/Staff)
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PHOENIX -- Despite the devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake that hit Japan early Friday morning, the A's new Japanese designated hitter, Hideki Matsui, was in the lineup for Oakland's spring training game here against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But Matsui was well aware of the catastrophe, first learning of the earthquake on the Internet Thursday night and staying up until midnight to try to get more details of the extensive damage.

Speaking through interpreter Roger Kahlon, the 36-year-old DH expressed concerned and sympathy for the people of his native country.

``I heard about it last night, actually, but I didn't have much information about it at first,'' Matsui said. ``As time went on, I started to understand the caliber of the situation. It is disturbing. I'm a bit worried, especially for the people who live in the area.''

Matsui said he has yet to communicate with any family members or friends in Japan. Even though he resides in Tokyo, most of his family is in Ishikawa, which is located in the southwest part of Japan, a significant distance from the earthquake's offshore epicenter in the northeast part of the country.

``I haven't spoken to anybody,'' he said. ``But they (his family) are not really close to the area, so I think they're OK.''

He did admit that even though he believes the people he's closest to are safe, he is still concerned for their mental well-being, especially after seeing some of the footage of the devastation on television.

``It is a bit difficult to watch,'' he said. ``Even though you're away, it's hard to see all that's going on and knowing that you have much family and people you know (in Japan).''


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Matsui has long been concerned about earthquakes in Asia. He donated $500,000 towards relief efforts for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

The 30 or so Japanese media members covering Matsui's first spring with the A's were on hand Friday as well. Many said communication to Japan is virtually impossible at the moment since telephone lines are either overtaxed or out of service as a result of the quake.