Matsuzaka’s Feats of Strength, Cont.
|09.26.09 at 12:20 pm ET|
NEW YORK –In the middle of last week, Daisuke Matsuzaka was throwing long toss with Red Sox bullpen catcher Mani Martinez. He kept backing up…and backing up…and backing up. The session stretched to the horizon, Matsuzaka managing to unleash throws well in excess of 300 feet on a line.
On the final one, from a distance that Matsuzaka estimated to be about 100m (approx. 330 feet), Martinez didn’t need to move his mitt. The throw was pinpointed to his chest.
For most onlookers, the display was a marvel. Though Martinez, the bullpen catcher, considered it impressive, however, he did not consider the performance unparalleled.
Martinez served as a bullpen catcher in Cleveland. There, he had the opportunity to work with a young Bartolo Colon, who showed arm strength unlike anything he had seen before or has seen since.
While Matsuzaka stretched out his long toss session by moving from the left-field foul line out towards center field, Colon took another route. He would extend from the left-field line towards the right-field foul pole, giving him a broader expanse of the field with which to work. Colon would back up to 300 feet…and then keep going. He would reach 350 feet…and keep going.
In the end, Martinez estimated, Colon would uncoil throws of roughly 400 feet to maintain his arm strength, the ball managing to stay on a line before reaching the bullpen catcher’s mitt on the fly.
Nonetheless, the Sox seem to be untroubled by the fact that another pitcher in baseball history was able to heave a ball further than Matsuzaka is currently proving capable of doing. More important to Boston is the fact that, two starts into his third stab at the 2009 season, Matsuzaka has power and life on his pitches – most notably a fastball that is getting lots of 92s and 93s on the gun – than he did in his two abortive attempts at pitching at the beginning of the year.
“He’s only pitched twice. It has been really encouraging,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “I think when we did this this year, we really thought that it would be more helpful down the road. I think we’re really pleased that he’s been able to come back and even be pitching for us now. But the whole idea was for his future.
“I don’t know how it will unfold the next couple weeks. I really don’t. The thing we’re kind of happy about is that when he was pitching early in the season, he would pitch and then he seemed to be trending [down]. As he accumulates innings and pitches now, he seems to be [improving], which is a really good sign.”
On Saturday, against the Yankees, Matsuzaka will have another opportunity to see just how ready he is to shoulder a load for the Sox as they prepare for the postseason.
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