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Sunday morning notes: Change comes for Daisuke

03.13.11 at 1:32 pm ET

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It is Year Five of Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s Red Sox tenure. Yet to a degree, he and the Sox are still searching for common ground with the pitcher in developing a routine.

Matsuzaka typically throws both long toss and a side session on the same day, two days after a start. But on Saturday, two days after a poor outing against the Rays, the right-hander threw only long toss. He threw his between-starts bullpen session in Fort Myers on Sunday.

It represents a seemingly incidental change of course, yet for a pitcher who is incredibly committed to his process of preparing for starts, it required some negotiation. The adaptation from the schedule in Japan — where pitchers typically get six days of rest between starts, rather than the four or five in Major League Baseball — has made it challenging to find a routine that balances Matsuzaka’s desire to throw with the increased workload in games.

“[Pitching coach Curt Young] and [Matsuzaka] had been talking about throwing his side a day later. With what Dice has been doing over the course of his career, in Japan, they had the extra day. So he’€™d have long toss [one day], side [the next],” Francona told reporters in Bradenton, prior to the Sox’ game against the Pirates. “Here he’€™s been doing it on the same day. He’€™s always done it. He was adamant he would do it. Curt’€™s trying to get him where he doesn’€™t do it on the same day. We asked him, hey, just try it. That’€™s what we’€™re attempting to do.’€

Francona acknowledged that the process of creating a routine with Matsuzaka has been more challenging than with other players, although that owes in no small part to the fact that he spent his life in Japan operating on a different schedule from the one that governs professional baseball in the U.S.

“His routine was so different. … His routine was based on how he used to pitch with an extra day,” said Francona. “I think what curt felt like was two times in one day, you’€™re kind of tearing down your arm. Long tossing, then you’€™re coming right back with a side, it’€™s a lot in one day. So, trying to maybe understand what Daisuke feels he needs, but maybe do it a little more economically.’€

Whether the alteration helps Matsuzaka turn the corner this spring remains to be seen. In three spring starts, Matsuzaka has allowed 11 runs in 8 2/3 innings, allowing 12 hits and five walks while striking out four. He is next scheduled to pitch on Tuesday in Lakeland against the Tigers.


Josh Beckett is taking the ball for the Sox in Bradenton against the Pirates. He is expected to throw 65-75 pitches.

–With the Sox not wanting Clay Buchholz to make a second start against the Yankees this spring, both he and Tim Wakefield will throw in a simulated game on the back field at City of Palms Park on Monday. Buchholz said that he was anticipating about 55 pitches, getting up and down four times. He hopes to focus on throwing his curveball more consistently in the strike zone.

On Friday, Buchholz and Wakefield will return to the mound to start when the Red Sox will have a pair of split-squad games, one in Port Charlotte against the Rays, the other against the Tigers in Fort Myers.

Alfredo Aceves will get the start on Monday against the Yankees.

–The day after Jacoby Ellsbury went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and a soaring homer to right, Francona suggested that the development of his power remains an unknown. At the same time, the Sox skipper views power as a secondary concern in the 27-year-old’s game.

“He takes a swing like he did yesterday, it’€™s gorgeous, and it’€™s certainly there. But then you start putting numbers on guys and the last thing you want to do is try to do that. That’€™s when you get in trouble. You just don’€™t know [how power will develop],” Francona told reporters. “Over the course of guys’€™ careers, you don’€™t know what they’€™re going to turn into. It’€™s impossible. With [Kevin Youkilis], I would have never thought that with Youk. You just don’€™t know. I think if [Ellsbury] gets on base though, at a higher percentage, that’€™s going to be way more important than him hitting home runs. If he’€™s able to be that guy that can get on base at a .380, .400 on-base percentage, that’€™s way more important.”

Ellsbury has a career .344 OBP, having topped out at a .355 mark in 2009.

–The Blue Jays are hoping to work out a trade with the Red Sox for left-hander Cesar Cabral.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Tim Wakefield
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