FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The only pressure Daisuke Matsuzaka should be feeling Tuesday is self-imposed, judging by the comments Red Sox manager Terry Francona made the day before his start against the Detroit Tigers this afternoon.
“ I’m not real concerned about anybody in camp,’’ Francona said in response to a question about Matsuzaka, who has given up 12 runs (10 earned) in 6 2/3 innings over his last two starts, allowing 12 hits while walking 4 and striking out 3.
“We want to leave here healthy and guys feeling good about themselves. I haven’t looked at anybody’s ERA. I know Daisuke got hit around a little bit the other day , [but] I know if we took Daisuke out of the rotation tomorrow, I wouldn’t want to play for me. That’s not a good thing. Let these guys get ready.’’
The Red Sox are attempting to make a change in Matsuzaka’s between-games routine. On the recommendation of pitching coach Curt Young, they’re asking him to abandon his practice of long-tossing and throwing a side session on the same day.
“I don’t know about carryover, but Curt felt two times in one day, you’re kind of tearing down your arm,’’ Francona said. “Long tossing, and then coming back with a side, it’s a lot in one day.’’
In Japan, where Matsuzaka had an extra day between starts, he had more time to recover. That’s not the case here. But it points to yet another adjustment that Matsuzaka, a star in Japan, has had to make in what has proven to be a rocky transition to baseball as played on this side of the Pacific.
It was interesting to listen to ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine, who got to know Matsuzaka while managing in Japan and believes the Red Sox have pushed Matsuzaka away from what made him so successful -- his great variety of pitches, trickery, unpredictability -- and making him throw more fastballs and sliders. My guess is that if Matsuzaka had shown greater command of those pitches, the Red Sox might have left him alone more, but because he was always pitching behind in the count they tried to simplify things.
A very favorable report, by the way, from one scout on Alfredo Aceves's outing against the Yankees:
"I thought he was very good,'' the scout said. "The way he pitched [Nick] Swisher and those other lefties with cutters in on their hands showed he knew what he was doing. And I thought his level of concentration and focus was up a notch from when I've watched him earlier. I thought everybody's levels were higher last night, maybe because it was Yankees and nationally televised.''