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Hideki Okajima, marathon man

02.26.09 at 10:53 am ET
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Hideki Okajima is now likely to be a Red Sox for the long haul, since the team now holds his rights through the 2012 season. Based on what the left-handed reliever did this past offseason, there is no reason to expect him to stumble short of the proverbial finish line on his time in Boston.

Okajima, much to the surprise of team officials, ran the Honolulu Marathon over the winter. Just before his 33rd birthday in December, he handled the 26.2 miles in six hours and change. (For the record, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford once ran the Boston Marathon in 4:00:03. Oki-Doke indeed.) Though there were some private concerns in the organization about the pitcher subjecting himself to that endurance test, he insists that it was an entirely useful means of preparing for the season.

“Running is really, really good. All that matters is concentration. It helps to focus (while getting ready) for Opening Day. You have to beat up your body a little bit, especially the lower body,” Okajima said through translator Jeff Yamaguchi. “Otherwise, you’€™re going to run out of gas during the season.”

That being the case, would Okajima ever have designs on running the Boston Marathon, perhaps diverting the trip from Hopkinton to head up to Fenway Park for eighth inning duties before leaving the park en route to Copley Square?

“No chance,” he said in English, before clarifying the stance in Japanese. “There’€™s a cutoff (time) for the Boston Marathon. I can’€™t meet it … (But) I think the Boston Marathon is a little bit easier than Honolulu. There are a lot of uphills and downhills in the Honolulu Marathon’€”many hills. There’€™s no flat top.”

Though he does not have visions of the Boston Marathon, Okajima is pleased to stay here for a lengthy duration. The man who ranks 12th in the majors in relief ERA (min. 100 games) over the past two seasons looks forward to remaining in Major League Baseball beyond the 2009 season.

“Of course I want to stay here,” said Okajima. “I don’€™t care about the contract. I want to get the results, have good numbers this year, then see what happens.”

Not much else to mention on a quiet morning following yesterday’s day-night double-header. A few odds and ends from the morning:

Justin Masterson is the lucky pitcher who gets the starting pitching assignment when the Red Sox roll across the state for a couple hours to play the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale on Monday. (Worth mentioning: there are murmurs that the Orioles might relocate to Fort Myers in the near future, which would certainly help the Red Sox and Twins to improve their currently grueling spring travel schedules.)

Jon Lester will be emphasizing his changeup in exhibition contests, starting with today’s outing against the Pirates.

Mike Lowell is now running at roughly 75-80 percent, and he’s taking batting practice without showing any signs of favoring his surgically repaired hip. The Sox are continuing their efforts to put the reins on John Smoltz, who is feeling good at this point in camp and clearly is chomping at the bit to increase his workload.

–Former Red Sox Eric Hinske is currently making the rounds, greeting his ex-teammates while wearing an unfamiliar Pirates uniform. It’s interesting to note that Hinske was one of the biggest free-agent bargains of the 2008 season, when he made just $800,000 from the Tampa Bay Rays, when he hit 20 homers with a .798 OPS.

Read More: Eric Hinske, Hideki Okajima, Jon Lester,
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