The Daisuke Report
|09.10.09 at 4:18 pm ET|
The Red Sox wanted to stretch out Daisuke Matsuzaka, and to give the right-hander a minor-league rehab outing in which he had the opportunity to build both his pitch count and his innings load. Mission accomplished.
On Wednesday, Matsuzaka delivered an impressive outing for Single-A Salem in the opener of its Carolina League playoff series against the Winston-Salem Dash. The pitcher threw 89 pitches in logging 6.2 innings, allowing one run on three hits and striking out seven while walking one. According to Salem Red Sox manager Chad Epperson, the pitcher showed a fastball that sat at 91-92 mph and topped out at 93, which he mixed adeptly with a cutter, slider and changeup.
“He was impressive. Overall, it was a solid outing,” Epperson said by phone. “He got out there in the first two innings and was trying to get the mix of his pitches and get a feel for them. And then in the third inning, he found the feel for his cutter and fastball and it was fun to watch. It was like, ‘Wow.’
“His two-seamer, on righties, kind of beat them to the spot, allowing for some weak contact and tardy swings. I thought he threw the cutter very well in to lefties. His secondary stuff was good. He threw some good sliders, some good changeups. I think (all his pitches) came into play in his strikeouts. His stuff moves so much. I do know his cutter was an effective pitch and his fastball, he got some tardy swings.”
Matsuzaka, who turns 29 on Sunday, was making his fourth and final rehab outing. He has been out since mid-June while building shoulder strength and working on his overall conditioning in what amounted to a second spring training. Now, after his most recent outing, it sounds like he is ready to return to the majors in hopes of contributing to the rotation down the stretch and perhaps into the postseason.
Whether he will actually be able to do so, and salvage a season in which he is 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA, remains to be seen. Though expectations should be measured for a pitcher who last performed in the majors three months ago, Matsuzaka has now positioned himself to the point where he has an opportunity to help at the major-league level.
“Overall, it was just like the organization wanted to draw it up,” Epperson said. “Get the pitch count up there, (build) his innings, and they have a decision to make.”
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