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11/23/08 11:11 AM EST

Rehab will keep Matsui out of Classic

Yankees slugger won't be ready in time to play for Japan

NEW YORK -- Hideki Matsui's recovery from left knee surgery will prevent him from playing for Japan in next year's World Baseball Classic.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told Newsday that the 34-year-old Matsui "will not be ready" to participate in the event by March, having had arthroscopic surgery to repair ligament damage shortly before the conclusion of the regular season.

Matsui, who batted .294 with nine home runs and 45 RBIs in 93 games for New York, did not play in the inaugural 2006 Classic. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said last week that early reports on Matsui's progress were positive, as head trainer Gene Monahan noted Matsui was ahead of schedule and already running in place.

Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki and Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka are among the star talents expected to represent Japan in next year's international tournament, which kicks off on March 5.

Several Yankees have expressed public interest in playing in next year's Classic. Both Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have said that they enjoyed their time representing the United States and would welcome another appearance.

Johnny Damon said late in the season that he had already filed the paperwork to apply for a roster spot. Newcomers like Joba Chamberlain also said that they would be honored to wear the U.S. uniform, while free agents Bobby Abreu (Venezuela) and Ivan Rodriguez (Puerto Rico) hoped to represent their respective countries.

Mariano Rivera is considered unlikely to represent Panama as he recovers from arthroscopic surgery on his pitching shoulder to remove calcification, and Jorge Posada -- who begins a throwing program Dec. 1 -- will also be excused from duty for Puerto Rico in favor of rehab from shoulder surgery.

Second baseman Robinson Cano, who did not play in the 2006 Classic, said that he is hoping he will be selected to represent the Dominican Republic this time around. Cano has received clearance from the Yankees to play 30 games -- all as a designated hitter -- in the Dominican Winter League for las Estrellas Orientales.

"If I stay as healthy as I am right now, I'll be in the Classic," Cano told The Associated Press.

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