|Red Sox-Tigers postgame notes: Nothing Dicey for Matsuzaka against Tigers||03.15.11 at 4:18 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — On Monday, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that any anxiety surrounding the spring performance of Daisuke Matsuzaka was premature. On Tuesday, with Matsuzaka pitching against the Tigers in Lakeland, Francona’s claim was backed by evidence.
Matsuzaka had far and away his best outing of the spring. After forging an 11.42 ERA in his first three spring appearances, he shut down completely a lineup of Tigers regulars. The right-hander tossed five shutout innings, allowing just two singles while walking one and striking out five. His fastball was clocked as high as 93 mph on the stadium scoreboard. He elicited six groundball outs on the day as well.
Whether related or mere coincidence, it was interesting to note that Matsuzaka’s best performance of the spring came in the start after he altered his five-day routine between starts. Whereas Matsuzaka had been in the habit of throwing long toss and a bullpen session on the same day, he separated the two undertakings, long tossing on Saturday (two days after his previous start) and then had a bullpen session three days after his appearance against the Rays.
–A year ago, Rays manager Joe Maddon said that he considered Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury capable of 20 or more homers in a single season. Regardless of whether he gets to that point, Ellsbury looks like the same player this spring who inspired those kinds of projections. On Tuesday, he hit his second homer in his last three games. For the spring, Ellsbury is now hitting .414.
–Before the game, Francona was asked about whether he would be uncomfortable stacking three straight lefties in his lineup in spots five through seven, something that could happen if he featured Adrian Gonzalez in the No. 5 hole, David Ortiz hitting sixth and J.D. Drew hitting seventh. Though Francona typically likes to separate his lefties in order to limit the damage that an opposing specialist might do, he would not rule out the possibility of bunching the three left-handed hitters.
“I don’t want to [separate the three hitters] for the sake of not having a good lineup. We can try to set it up so one reliever can’t come in and face three lefties in a row and then we don’t have our best lineup, and then you’re setting that up for the rest of the game,” Francona told reporters. “I would think you can sometimes overmanage so you don’t have that one lefty and actually not put your best lineup out there, so we’ll see.
“If we’re swinging the bats like we’re supposed to, it’s not an issue. And if we’re not, everyone will want you to change it. That’s always the way it is.”
–Francona said that the competition for the final spots in the bullpen will present the Sox with “an interesting last week” of spring training.
One player who has garnered little attention but has enjoyed a strong showing this spring is Matt Albers, who struck out three batters but gave up a run in two innings on Tuesday. The 28-year-old has had what Francona called a “tremendous” spring. But the right-hander is not alone.
“I can’t say there’s a guy that doesn’t deserve to be on the ballclub. They’ve all done well,” said Francona. “That was Rich Hill’s two best innings of the spring last night. Matt Albers has been tremendous this spring. [Scott Atchison] just goes and gets ‘em out. Andrew Miller’s been exciting. Regardless of what our roster move ends up being at the end of the spring, for the organization I think it’s still good news. We’re going to have to give a couple of guys news they’re not going to want to hear. But it bodes well for our entire organization.”
–Victor Martinez went 1-for-2 with a single and walk in three plate appearances against his former teammates. Martinez was serving as the DH for the Tigers.
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