TC pledges another Dice-K start

ATLANTA -- After Daisuke Matsuzaka surrendered six runs in three innings in his third start as a Met and his ERA further ballooned to 10.95, Terry Collins stood behind the Japanese right-hander.

Collins strongly suggested Matsuzaka would remain in the rotation, which means making his next scheduled start Sunday at Cleveland.

"There's no reason why we probably don't run him out there again," Collins said after the Mets' 13-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Monday. "... He's got to get it going for us, because we've got a lot more games to play this month, and he's going to be part of those games right now. But he's got to get it going."

Said Matsuzaka through an interpreter: "Looking at the way I pitched today, if I'm told this is my last start, then it's something that I'll have to accept."

That said, newly signed Aaron Harang did pitch for Triple-A Las Vegas in his organization debut Monday, preserving him as an alternative. Harang, pitching four innings of relief, allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out five. He surrendered a two-run homer to Cody Decker.

How much is sticking with Matsuzaka a reflection of not having viable alternatives, especially since the organization has innings caps on its prospects?

"Well, we need him for innings, and that's why we got him," Collins said. "I know him. And I know exactly all about him, that he will get himself ready. Nobody works harder than he does to get prepared."

Collins said the biggest surprise with Matsuzaka has been his lack of precise command of his pitches, which is contrary to his reputation.

"The difference between my good pitches and my bad pitches are just too big," Matsuzaka said. "That's something that needs to change."

Entering the start, Collins had tried to encouraged Matsuzaka to speed up his pronounced time between delivering pitches. But it was more of the same Monday at Turner Field.

"The problem was I wasn't able to get into a good rhythm," Matsuzaka said. "Maybe sometimes I took too much time, sometimes not enough time enough. That's an area that I obviously need to work on."