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Epstein: Matsuzaka should have ‘normal spring training’

02.17.10 at 9:18 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said that right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka felt some discomfort in his mid-upper back while playing catch on Friday, which the team subsequently determined to be a “really mild strain.” Though the team considers the issue a minor one, it decided to proceed in a conservative fashion, given that Matsuzaka had already been scheduled to head back to Boston for a couple of days for a personal matter and that team physician Dr. Thomas Gill is not scheduled to arrive in Fort Myers until Friday. The team will have Gill examine Matsuzaka as part of the routine physicals performed on all pitchers.

Though the Sox do not consider the issue one that will prevent Matsuzaka from having a normal spring training with a full workload, the team was mindful of the 2009 season, when preparations for the World Baseball Classic created physical issues that lingered over the course of the entire season. Given that history, the team will wait until the pitcher is more thoroughly evaluated before establishing a throwing schedule.

“We decided not to let him do much until we get the physicals, given what he went through last spring, probably doing a little too much, too soon for the WBC,” Epstein said. “We’re two months away from when we’ll need his rotation spot anyway, so we’ll just slow it down, let our doctors look at him, not make something we think is really small into something big.

“If it’s a mild strain like we think it is, he’ll be able to have a normal spring training. He’ll be delayed a bit at the start of camp. I don’t want to put a number of days behind that he’ll be, but he’ll be a little bit behind because while other guys are long tossing and throwing ‘pens now, he’s not going to do that for a few days.”

Epstein said that the pitcher’s communication with the team on the issue was excellent, and that he engaged in “full disclosure” of the condition before it could become an issue. Those measures offer further evidence that the pitcher and the team are now in broader agreement on his training program and care than has been the case at times in his Red Sox career.

“His attitude has been great. He was very accepting when we told him we want to treat it conservatively,” Epstein said. ”I know he’s worked really hard this winter to make up for last year and come out and have a big season. That’s what we’re all hoping for him. We want to slow this thing down so we don’t turn something small into something big. Last year, he never really was able to get into condition to pitch in part because of the way things went early in spring. We want to make sure we avoid a repeat of that.”

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