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Yoda offers unique perspective on Matsuzaka

03.02.10 at 12:13 am ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka's WBC pitching coach Tsuyoshi Yoda paid a visit to his former pupil in Fort Myers Monday. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — At this time last year Tsuyoshi Yoda was the one guiding Daisuke Matsuzaka through spring training. The former Japanese professional pitcher was the pitching coach for Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic and Matsuzaka was one of the key members of his rotation.

So when Yoda showed up at the Red Sox’ minor league training facility Monday, he offered a unique perspective on Matsuzaka’s current state, serving as the only person currently in Fort Myers who had witnessed the Sox pitcher on March 1 both in 2009 and ’10.

So, did Matsuzaka look better than he appeared last year at this time?

“Hai!”

Yoda’s response translated into “yes” and immediately offered another wave of insight into what transpired with Matsuzaka in the early stages of last season.

“He looks better than last year,” Yoda said through a translator after watching Matsuzaka throw lightly. “I saw the bullpen today and his body structure and movement was much better than last year.”

Yoda, who remembered Matsuzaka’s velocity throughout his time with Team Japan as being “up and down,” also relayed that “it was obvious [the velocity] was different than in the past.”

Another telling observation by Yoda was that, like the Red Sox, he and his WBC team weren’t aware of the groin injury Matsuzaka told a Japanese magazine he had injured during training for the event last year.

“When I heard about the injury … I didn’t know about it,” Yoda said.

“After he came back to Boston I wasn’t his coach anymore, so I tried not to talk to him as a coach. If he asked I might have answered, but I respect the Red Sox. I did meet with him today and asked him how the groin muscle was and he said it wasn’t stiff, like last year. If it was a problem he should communicate, but we didn’t know about it last year.”

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