FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka diverged from the plan to throw batting practice Monday, electing instead to do some long tossing followed by a 25-pitch bullpen session, and was encouraged by the results.
"It definitely feels better,'' Matsuzaka told reporters, referring to the neck stiffness that had caused him to skip Saturday's scheduled batting practice session, which would have been his first of the spring. "Today I felt comfortable throwing off the mound, and I discussed this with [pitching coach John] Farrell. We decided to have a little bit of a shortened bullpen session, and it felt fine out there today."
Matsuzaka said he had felt "a fairly intense pain" Saturday after throwing one pitch in the bullpen, which led him to cancel the BP session. He opted for a bullpen Monday, he said, just as a precaution.
"I didn't want to do anything that could set me back,'' he said.
Matsuzaka said he wants to see how his body responds Tuesday before he commits to a batting practice session on Wednesday.
He didn't rule out the possibility that his neck issue was related to the earlier back problem that had sidelined him for more than three weeks. "I think that's definitely a possibility,'' he said through translator Masa Hoshino, "but I'm not a doctor so I can't say for sure.
'' I do have a tendency to get a little tightness in the neck, so I would describe it just as fatigue building up in the neck. During the year, this tends to happen two or three times to me, and it just so happens that this year, in spring training, it struck me.''
Matsuzaka, who has virtually no chance of opening the regular season on time, acknowledged his frustration.
"I finally felt that my back issue was getting better, and at that point, to go through this with my neck right now, it's sort of moving along in stops and starts, and that's been a little bit stressful, frustrating, for me,'' he said.
Matsuzaka said he threw his fastball, slider and changeup during his bullpen session.
"I think today was encouraging,'' Farrell told reporters. "He felt much better than he did yesterday, which is evident by the fact that he went through his long toss and got out on the mound. There were no restrictions, and the intensity was much better. It's improved over the two bullpens that he threw prior to this.''
The plan for Matsuzaka after he throws a BP?
"I think at this point we're taking it one step at a time,'' Farrell said. ''I think we'd be hopeful that we could get him in a minor-league game at this point. I think it would be prudent on our part that he pitch in a minor-league game first, to see his first live game action.''
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.