Monday, April 26, 2010
Dice-K to make season debut Saturday
By Allan Ryan
Special to ESPNBoston.com
TORONTO -- The umpire might not have been totally unbiased, but Boston right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka is that much closer to his season debut.
"I umpired -- 69 pitches," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona of Matsuzaka's simulated game before Monday's series opener against the Blue Jays. "He looks like he's feeling pretty good about himself."
The oft-delayed due date for Matsuzaka is now Saturday in Baltimore.
"I don't think it will really hit me until I'm back on the mound," Matsuzaka, thoughtful as usual, said through his interpreter. "I think I'll be really nervous. I just don't want to be any further distraction to the team. Looking back at this past month, I was such a burden, but as I get more and more starts, I hope I can repay that a little bit."
Matsuzaka was placed on the 15-day disabled list April 4 with a strained neck.
Francona said he felt the team treading as carefully as they have with Matsuzaka (three rehab starts as he slowly recovered from back and then neck problems) was the right way to go about things.
"I think it might have been the only way," Francona said. "I don't think you can expect a pitcher to go out there at 100 percent if you're going to cut corners."
Getting back to the simulation, Francona said, "He threw the ball pretty well. [His] cutter had some power behind it. It was good to see. [His] breaking ball had some spin with some depth to it. Some good change-ups. The ball came out of his hand kind of nice. I think he feels so confident about his cutter."
Added pitching coach John Farrell: "His cutter and slider were tight, powerful, and that's an indication of increased arm strength. It's a simulated game environment but he followed the glove as he's been doing in his recent starts."
Referring to Matsuzaka's April 1 start in Washington as the Red Sox barnstormed their way home from Florida, Farrell assured that Monday had provided a striking and encouraging contrast.
"He was much sharper, much cleaner with all four pitches," said Farrell. "His work and how he's gone about it has been very consistent from the time he came back last year, through the offseason and into spring training. I'm sure he was disappointed he wasn't able to start on time."
So, it'll be Saturday in Baltimore then.
"Today, I just wanted to be able to show the manager and the coaches that I was ready to pitch in a game," said Matsuzaka. "I felt I had good command. It felt very good coming off my fingertips.
"My hope is, coming back, I can help the team -- change the momentum. I don't mean that I can single-handedly make up the difference, but sometimes you change the roster a bit, good things will happen."
Matsuzaka went 4-6 in 12 starts last season, landing on the disabled list twice with a sore shoulder.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.