Dice-K feels ready for big leagues

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After two strong rehab starts for Triple-A Pawtucket, Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka says he's ready to return to Boston.

The right-hander worked six scoreless innings and allowed only three hits with no walks and two strikeouts against the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola Field on Thursday afternoon. He threw 86 pitches (57 strikes). In two starts for the PawSox he's worked a total of 11 scoreless innings.

"I think personally I'm ready and I feel ready," he said. "But at this point I'll leave the decision up to the powers that be."

"I think I've thrown enough pitches at this point to be ready to pitch in the big leagues, and compared to the second time I went on the DL last year, it took me a really long time to have that feeling," he said. "I'm confident I can pitch in the big leagues."

Since he reached 86 pitches with a pitch limit of 90, PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur asked Matsuzaka if he wanted to go back out to face one batter in the seventh inning, but the pitcher decided against it.

After his outing on Thursday, Matsuzaka said he was happy with his arm action and was pleased with his breaking pitches. From a health standpoint he was able to pitch without hesitation and felt no discomfort afterward.

In his first rehab outing on April 10 at Pawtucket, he worked five scoreless innings and allowed only two hits. He was solid again on Thursday.

"Of course I'm not 100 percent satisfied about every element of my performance out there today, but the big thing for me was being able to build on one solid performance," he said.

His biggest challenge of the day was a 12-pitch at-bat to the Bisons' Josh Thole in the third inning.

"I think hitters like that give me the most trouble," said Matsuzaka. "I was pitching to good locations and he managed to foul off and keep battling, so I tried to mix it up. I threw to those good locations, but try to throw them off a little bit and I was finally able to do that on my last pitch today to him. I didn't really want to walk him, so I'm glad I got out of there and did not allow him to get on base."

His slider was very efficient and he registered a couple of strikeouts with the pitch.

"The last outing the break on my slider wasn't that great, so I had to make a conscious effort to try to make it break," he said. "But today I was able to use my slider with normal arm action and it seemed to do the work on its own."