Valentine: Matsuzaka won't be ready after Pawtucket starts


Valentine: Matsuzaka won't be ready after Pawtucket starts

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Daisuke Matsuzaka has two more starts scheduled as part of his current 30-day rehab stint, but according to manager Bobby Valentine, Matsuzaka doesn't appear that he'll be ready to join the big league team when those starts are completed.

Matsuzaka underwent Tommy John surgery last summer and continues to work on his delivery. He's scheduled to pitch for Pawtucket Thursday and again on May 22.

"I don't think he's all that close to pitching in the major league," said Valentine. "Not until he's ready. It's not the calendar that's going to dictate whether or not a guy pitches in the major leagues."

The Sox have the option of putting Matsuzaka back on the disabled list and then beginning a new rehab assignment if they don't feel he's ready to compete in the big leagues.

"You can't say, 'Hey, the 30-day clock is done,' now the guy has to get into a major league game and get whacked," said Valentine. "That doesn't sound right to me."

Valentine, who speaks Japanese from his time spent managing in Japan, has had several discussions with Matsuzaka and gets the sense that the pitcher is still working on how to best master his mechanics in the wake of his surgery.

"There's a lot of things that you do before you're totally ready," Valentine said. "I'm not sure he's put his elbow situation behind him yet. I don't think he totally understands where he is with his elbow, which is very important.

"It's not necessarily (being) tentative with the elbow. It's understanding why (the injury) happened, what he did to pitch while it was hurt and that mechanic and whether or not that mechanic is something he should be using now. Or should he go back to the mechanic he was using when he hurt (the elbow)?

"It's a very confusing state. Until he figures that out -- totally in his mind -- I think competition is going to be confused. We want him to be here and not only healthy, but be able to be in competition."

In a recent outing, Matsuzaka's fastball topped out at 91 mph, but that was because he's experimenting with different deliveries.

"I think he can throw harder," said Valentine. "And he has. A couple of early starts, he was throwing hard. But the last start, his velocity wasn't there because he spent a lot of time with this dilemma, which (throwing) mechanic (to use), just trying to figure it out."

Valentine said the process is not unlike what reliever Rich Hill went through when he had the same surgery last June.

"Pitchers come to that place at different times," said Valentine.

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.