- Adam Rubin, ESPNNewYork.com
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VIERA, Fla. -- Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka continued to solidify his standing as the New York Mets' fifth-starter front-runner. He also defended Dan Warthen in limited comments reacting to the pitching coach's use of an Asian slur.
After holding the Washington Nationals to one run on three hits and striking out four in 3 2/3 innings Thursday, Matsuzaka offered support for Warthen.
"Today I was just preparing for my game, so I just spoke to him about today's lineup and what was going on during the game," Matsuzaka said through Jeff Cutler, his interpreter. "... I think everyone makes mistakes, and Dan has already commented on it. I don't want to dig deeper into it or try to add to what it is."
"Same with me," Cutler added, speaking for himself. "Dan has already commented on it. And [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] has talked about it. I don't really have anything else to add to it."
Matsuzaka said his conversation with Warthen on Thursday was limited to baseball.
Warthen publicly apologized Wednesday night for having directed a slur once commonly used to denigrate people of Asian descent at Cutler.
According to an account in The Wall Street Journal, a reporter was speaking with the interpreter in the clubhouse Monday when Warthen approached. During the ensuing conversation, the pitching coach reportedly apologized to Cutler for previously using the word in a joking manner.
But Warthen mentioned the slur while issuing that apology. The reporter, a Chinese American from San Francisco, became offended by Warthen repeating the word.
Asked Thursday if he was comfortable working with Warthen, Matsuzaka said, "I don't expect our relationship to change going forward."
Cutler suggested it was not productive to speak about whether he was personally offended by Warthen's use of the slur.
"Again, Dan has already commented on it. Sandy has commented on it," Cutler said. "And I don't have anything else to add to it."
Meanwhile, Matsuzaka continued on the inside track to claiming the final starter's role with the Mets. After his productive outing Thursday, he has allowed three earned runs in 7 2/3 Grapefruit League innings.
"Overall, I think it was a very good outing," Matsuzaka said. "I was consistent out there. That was the most important thing. Of course, I would have liked if I could have gone a little deeper in the game. But that's something that will come. But right now results are important. So I'm pretty satisfied with my outing. Other than throwing a few more innings, I think overall I'm ready to begin the season."
Asked if he expected to be the fifth starter, Matsuzaka said, "Until the decision is made, I have no say in it. But I have been preparing, expecting myself to be in that position.
"I'm not the one who makes the decisions, so it's hard to say," he continued. "But so far I think I have pitched pretty well. I'm pretty satisfied with what I've done so far."
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