BOSTON One day short of a year since he had Tommy John surgery, Daisuke Matsuzaka is returning to a major league mound, starting against the Washington Nationals Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park.
It will be a first for manager Bobby Valentine.
Id like to get it over with actually because I have no idea what to expect, Valentine said. Ive seen him a little on film. Ive never seen him on the big stage. So this is something Id like to turn the page.
Matsuzaka has made eight starts on two separate 30-day rehab assignments with one start each for High-A Salem and Double-A Portland and six starts, posting a combined record of 0-3 with a 3.65 ERA.
In five seasons with the Sox, Matsuzaka, who is in the sixth and final season of his contract, has a record of 49-30 (4.25). He was 3-3 (5.30) in eight games, seven starts last season. This is the second season he began on the disabled, along with 2010 when he was sidelined by a neck strain.
To make room for Matsuzaka on the roster, outfielder Marlon Byrd was designated for assignment.
Marlon came here, kind of saved the day and now hell more than likely be with another team, Valentine said. Hopefully its not in our division and competing against us. He did a good job while he was here. We just needed room for a starting pitcher today.
The decision was between Byrd and Darnell McDonald, Valentine said.
When we got Marlon there was a real need for outfield depth and Daniel Nava has filled in very nicely there. Hes done a great job. And Darnell coming back, it was kind of a decision with Darnell and Marlon.
McDonalds tenure with the Sox was a factor in the decision. McDonald, the No. 1 pick of the Orioles in 1997, is in his third season with the Sox. Byrd was acquired in a trade with the Cubs on April 21.
McDonald has had a little more history here, Valentine said. Coaches and all were much more familiar with him and we feel that he might be able to give us a little more extra-base power when hitting against left-handers.
McDonald missed 22 games, from May 12 June 5, on the DL with a right oblique strain.
Been pretty good, Valentine said. Been about what I thought in spring training. He played a lot more in spring training obviously. He was hot.
Jacoby Ellsbury, on the DL since April 14 with a right shoulder subluxation, is making progress, but there is still no timetable on a return for him.
Yesterday was his fifth day in a row hitting off a tee and he felt great, Valentine said. Hes in very good physical condition and his baseball activities are going to progress in this progression that we have in mind. He has had no setbacks.
Carl Crawford threw for the second day and took batting practice before Saturdays game. But there is no timetable for his return.
Dont know anytime soon what that means, Valentine said. But he played catch today and threw the ball well, ran the bases. So hes progressing.