Red Sox notes: Dice-K, Byrd, Ellsbury, Crawford

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Red Sox notes: Dice-K, Byrd, Ellsbury, Crawford

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.

Red Sox 'not going to rush' moving pitching depth after acquiring Sale

Red Sox 'not going to rush' moving pitching depth after acquiring Sale

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The addition of Chris Sale to the Red Sox' rotation has created a rare glut of starting pitchers, including seven with major league experience.

That means that at least one will have to be moved in a trade. But Red Sox' president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski isn't in any hurry.

"We're not aggressively looking to do something,'' he said. "We're really just digesting what's taken place. I think if we wanted to aggressively make a deal, we could definitely do that. But I don't really have a big hole on our major league club to address at this time.

"I think it's really important to gather all the info. Some teams have (starters) available; there are free agents out there. Our philosophy is kind of say, 'Let's just see what happens.' We're not going to rush out and do anything.''

That makes sense, especially since there's a very thin free agent market for starters, and many teams that need upgrades to their rotation.

Eventually, some are going to get desperate and may have to overpay. In that scenario, the Sox could really capitalize.

The starter the Sox would like to move the most is Clay Buchholz, if only because his salary ($13.5 million) is easily the highest among the three the Sox would be willing to part with. Steven Wright has yet to qualify for salary arbitration and Drew Pomeranz will get a bump from last year, but will still be under $5 million after arbitration.

Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, almost certainly won't be dealt because of his youth and potential, though Dombrowski hinted that teams have checked on the availability of every starter except The Big Three of Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello "as well as guys who aren't (in the current major league picture like Brian Johnson, Henry Owens, and Roenis Elias).''

Depth in the rotation is always welcome, but the numbers are such that the Sox can't make the current group of seven starters work.

"You start counting,'' said Dombrowski, "and there's not enough spots for everybody on the team.''

It's possible that the Sox could go into spring training with all seven and wait to see if injuries elsewhere give them additional leverage.

But that, too, is unlikely.

"It seems like there's not a lot of moves made in spring training,'' he said.

As for what the Sox might be seeking in return, the Sox don't have any obvious need they have to fill. It's possible they could want to obtain some prospects to help restock the system after six were traded in two trades this week.

"I can't really answer that question.'' he said. "We've traded a lot (of prospects). We wouldn't mind replenishing some of what we've traded.''

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
 
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.