Daisuke Matsuzaka weighed in on his status and competition with Jenrry Mejia on Thursday morning.PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Daisuke Matsuzaka could not have been thrilled with Tuesday's decision to hand him $100,000 rather than officially add him to the Opening Day roster. Still, Matsuzaka said he has learned since arriving in the United States for the 2007 season that stuff happens.
The decision to pay the cash and defer naming a fifth starter had come a day after Matsuzaka tossed six scoreless innings against the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I've been here for several years now and have seen a lot of unexpected things happen," Matsuzaka told ESPNNewYork.com through interpreter Jeff Cutler on Thursday. "I think this was just one of those things. This whole spring I was ready for anything to happen, so I wasn't taken by surprise. It's just baseball, I guess. I understand the situation of the team, too. I just have to accept it and move forward."
Matsuzaka said he was afforded an intricate explanation of the Mets' reasoning.
The short version: Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia both could be in the rotation to start the year if Jonathon Niese has a setback and is unable to come off the DL on April 6. But once Mejia is optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas, he would be ineligible to sub for Niese, since he would have to spend the first 10 days of the season in the minors. On the other hand, Matsuzaka, on a minor-league deal, would be eligible to be added in place of Niese if the need arose.
So if Mejia starts April 4 and Niese starts April 6, the Mets can still decide to add Matsuzaka at that point and option Mejia to the minors. But if Matsuzaka started April 4 and Niese were unable to start April 6, Mejia would be ineligible for that outing.
The manipulation allows the Mets to carry an extra bench player for at least the first five games of the season.
"There was an explanation along those lines," Matsuzaka said. "I understood and sort of saw that coming, too. That was something, I understand the situation of the team."
Does Matsuzaka think he has a fair chance of landing in Triple-A? Or does he believe this is simple roster maneuvering and he will be with the big-league team when all is said and done?
"Of course, I'd like to be there Opening Day," Matsuzaka said. "But right now my focus is my next start. I'd like to focus on that rather than what could happen or the ifs."
Mejia will face the Toronto Blue Jays in Montreal on Friday. Matsuzaka draws the same matchup the next day, as the official faceoff continues.
Given his Monday performance, could the Mets really turn down Matsuzaka in the rotation if he can duplicate that showing against the Jays?
"I'm confident that I'll be there Opening Day," Matsuzaka replied. "I'm confident that I can pitch at the major-league level. But all I can do for my next start is pitch well and make them believe that I'm a necessary asset to the team. That's all I can do for now, I think. I think they'll make a decision regarding what happens in the next few days, after those [Montreal] games."