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Pregame Notes: Matsuzaka doing ‘fairly well’ day after early exit

04.30.11 at 5:27 pm ET
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When Daisuke Matsuzaka was taken out of the fifth inning of Friday’€™s 5-4 loss to the Mariners due to elbow concerns, Terry Francona hoped that the concern would only be temporary and that his fifth starter would be able to make his next available start. After another day for the team doctors to examine any possible injury, the Red Sox manager continued to echo his original sentiments.

‘€œHe was examined fairly extensively last night after he came out and actually did fairly well. So that’€™s good,’€ Francona said. ‘€œHe’€™s going through his normal Day One activities. Certainly we want to keep an eye on him, but hopefully we just overreacted.’€

Matsuzaka had seen his velocity dip from the low-90s at the game’€™s outset to the mid-to-high-80s by the fifth, forcing Francona and catcher Jason Varitek to rush to the mound to make sure everything was as it should be. After Matsuzaka noted that he had some stiffness in his elbow, the team decided that they would rather go to the bullpen than risk anything more serious.

Although the Sox eventually fell to the Mariners, the cautionary move seems, at least for now, to have paid off in the long run.

‘€œJust kind of a bad day and move on,’€ said Francona. ‘€œI think that’€™s what Daisuke thinks. The trainers have said nothing different. They’€™re upbeat about this.”

Other notes:

-Sox corner infielder Kevin Youkilis has certainly had his ups and downs in the early going, and you don’€™t have to look much further than his strikeout and walk totals to understand that. He is third in the American League with 20 free passes but is also eighth in the junior circuit in strikeouts with 25. Youkilis remains the only player in either league to be in the top 10 of both categories.

Francona noted that, although nothing truly hurts, Youkilis’€™s thumb surgery that ended his 2010 campaign last August may have some lingering effects on the seven-year veteran. However, he doesn’€™t have much concern for how Youkilis will perform going forward.

‘€œHe’€™s got a high on-base percentage,’€ Francona said. ‘€œNow on the flipside of that, he’€™s probably swung at more pitches out of the zone early this year than we’€™ve seen in a while. We depend on Youk so much for our offense. He’€™s right smack in the middle, but I’€™ll bet my bottom dollar he’€™ll be right back to where he’€™s supposed to be. He’€™s too good a hitter.’€

-Another struggling infielder for the Sox has been second basemen Dustin Pedroia. In his last seven games, the former AL MVP is hitting just .107 with six strikeouts. Along with Adrian Gonzalez, Pedroia is one of only two Boston players to not miss a start thus far in 2011, but don’€™t expect Francona to give him a day off necessarily any time soon.

‘€œHe expects so much out of himself. If he’€™s 0-for-1, he’€™s frustrated.

‘€œI probably shouldn’€™t even say this, but I don’€™t even look at his batting average because he’€™s going to be in there. He’€™s going to play, and he’€™s going to do well. That’€™s just how I feel. If he isn’€™t going to get a hit, he’€™s going to save a run with the glove or do something else, that’€™s just the way he’€™s built.’€

-In more positive hitting news, David Ortiz is set to sign off on arguably his best month of April since 2007. The Sox designated hitter has a batting line of .280/.388/.415 to go with two home runs and 11 RBI in 24 games during the past month. Compare that to last season’€™s opening month when Ortiz hit just .143 with only four men driven in.

Francona said that the reason behind the better jump this season has something to do with Ortiz just being more comfortable at the plate than in Aprils past.

‘€œI think swinging at strikes and the ability to stay balanced so that he can hit the ball to left field [have helped]. . . Last couple springs, you saw a lot of check swings, a lot of balls in the dirt where he wasn’€™t making pitchers throw fastballs. Now, he’€™s making pitchers earn it.’€

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