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Red Sox-Yankees pregame notes: Francona backs Daisuke

03.14.11 at 6:16 pm ET

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Spring training results are supposed to be meaningless for established members of a club. That said, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be disconcerting.

That is the situation with Daisuke Matsuzaka this spring. Expected to man the fifth spot in the Sox rotation, the 30-year-old has struggled badly this spring. He has allowed 11 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings in his three spring starts, including 12 runs (10 earned) in 6 2/3 innings over his last two outings. He has four strikeouts and five walks this spring.

So, it is fair to wonder: When do spring results matter?

The answer from Sox manager Terry Francona regarding Matsuzaka: Not yet.

“I’€™m not real concerned about anyone in camp. We want to leave here healthy and guys feeling good about themselves. I haven’€™t looked at anyone’€™s ERA,” said Francona. “I know Daisuke got hit around a little bit the other day. I know if we took Daisuke out of the rotation tomorrow, I wouldn’€™t want to play for me. We’€™ve got to let these guys get ready.”


–Matsuzaka is playing a key role, along with fellow Japanese natives Hideki Okajima and Junichi Tazawa and recently signed pitcher Itsuki Shoda in spearheading team efforts to collect money for disaster relief in Japan. From a team press release:

The team encouraged fans to consider making donations through the team charity, the Red Sox Foundation. One hundred percent of donations received will be directed to the Red Cross relief efforts now underway in Japan. The Red Sox Foundation has committed to donate $50,000, and Matsuzaka and Okajima, along with fellow pitchers Junichi Tazawa and Itsuki Shoda, are each making personal donations.

Matsuzaka and Okajima recorded video messages in Japanese and English expressing support for their country and asking fans to make a donation. The videos and donation details are available on the Club’s official website at redsox.com/japan, and on the charity’s website, www.redsoxfoundation.org.

“Japan has been brave fighting through damages caused by the earthquake and tsunami,” Matsuzaka said on the Japanese-language video message.

“We are especially concerned with all those who are missing and are waiting to be rescued,” said Okajima, also on the Japanese-language video. “And we pray for their safe return to their family and friends.”

Fans can help the victims of this devastating natural disaster by making a donation to the Red Sox Foundation, the official team charity of the Boston Red Sox. Fans can log on to www.redsoxfoundation.org to make a tax deductible donation via credit card online or by mail via check/money order. Checks should be made out to ‘€œRed Sox Foundation/Japan Relief’€ and sent to Red Sox Foundation, 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA 02215. Team officials noted that 100 percent of donations received will support the Red Cross relief efforts in Japan.

The Japanese players stood at the gates on Monday night to ask fans entering the park to donate to relief efforts.

–The Red Sox lineup features eight regulars (with Mike Cameron in right field in place of J.D. Drew), and with almost all regulars, the top of the order designed by Francona could well be the one he will employ in the regular season:

Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Crawford, LF
Youkilis, 3B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Cameron, RF
Saltalamacchia, C
Scutaro, SS

Asked whether the lineup might take a similar structure once the regular season begins, Francona was non-commital.

“We’€™ll see. I honestly don’€™t know. We’€™ll see,” said Francona. “If you have Gonzalez hitting fifth, most likely you’€™re going to have Gonzalez-David-J.D. so I don’€™t know if I want to do that either. We’€™ll see.”

Tim Wakefield and Clay Buchholz threw simulated games on the back field at City of Palms Park.

“I wanted to go out there and throw some curveballs, flip them first pitch, change the arm angle and throw them in the dirt,” said Buchholz. “I have confidence in that. I did basically what I wanted to go out there and do.”

Buchholz is scheduled to start against the Tigers at City of Palms Park on Friday, while Wakefield will make a start against Tampa Bay in Port Charlotte that night.

–With those two pitchers doing their work in a simulated setting, right-hander Alfredo Aceves will get the start against a Yankees team that non-tendered him in Dec., thus making him a free agent. Thus far, the Sox have been impressed with both the pitcher’s health (following a 2010 season in which he was limited to 12 appearances), and they feel lucky to have added such a pitcher just days before the start of spring training.

“Very enthusiastic. Hard worker,” said Francona. “I think we probably caught a little bit of a break. Because of his injury situation, we got a chance to hit get him where normally you wouldn’€™t because he’€™d be on a major league contract and long gone before we were able to get him, so maybe we’€™re going to catch a break.’€

How Aceves prepares for the season after Monday night is an open question. He has been stretched out thus far as a starter, though the Sox might also want to see him in some relief situations in order to gauge what kind of shot he has at making the Opening Day roster out of the bullpen. Francona said the Sox had not yet determined whether he will continue to be stretched out like a starter going forward.

–With Sergio Mitre sidelined by an oblique strain, the Yankees will have Manny Baneulos start on Monday night. The 20-year-old, whom the Yankees signed out of Mexico, was extremely impressive in an appearance against the Sox earlier this spring.

“I hope he’€™s too young to make their team. I think, out of [respect] for this man’€™s future, they should go slow with him. Very slow,” joked Francona. “He was impressive. I’€™m actually kind of excited he’€™s pitching tonight because that was fun to watch. I actually mentioned that to [Brian Cashman] the other night. I say it out of respect, they just need to go slow. You rush a guy like that, it will be bad.”

–Francona anticipates that the Sox will have another round of cuts after the team has a couple of long roadtrips on Tuesday (to play the Tigers in Lakeland) and Wednesday (to play the Braves at Disney).

–Several members of the Sox are looking forward to seeing Victor Martinez on Tuesday. Martinez left the Sox to sign a four-year, $50 million deal with Detroit this winter.

“All the things people said about him came through in a hurry,” said Francona. “Great kid, solid professional, really good hitter. that won’€™t change because he went to another team.”

Read More: adrian gonzalez, alfredo aceves, carl crawford, Clay Buchholz
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