Matsuzaka earns 50th career win in second return from DL

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Matsuzaka earns 50th career win in second return from DL

BOSTON -- Daisuke Matsuzaka knows what everyone says about Tommy John surgery. You'll throw harder afterwards. Assuming everybody's body reacts differently, and whether or not that will eventually be the case with Matsuzaka, Red Sox pitching coach Randy Niemann knows exactly why he was able to pick up his first win of the season on Monday afternoon.

"As he's progressed along, I think his fastball has gotten a little better," said Niemann after Boston's 5-1 win over the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park. "And again, maybe not velocity-wise, but there's a life to his pitches, that, when you're back to full strength, there's a finishing life to him that I think he's gotten back. Evidence is, the hitters when they swing at it. It's not as easy to square the ball up. I'm seeing more and more of that with each outing. Every time that he's had a chance to be out there for us, I'm seeing more and more of that."

So it wasn't the velocity of Matsuzaka's fastball on Monday, it was the life and movement on his fastball, especially when the ball reached the hitter.

Matsuzaka returned to the Red Sox in June after fully recovering from Tommy John surgery. He then went back on the DL in July with a neck injury, only to make his second return on Monday.

"When I returned back in June, and I didn't get the results I wanted to, I thought for a moment that I wouldn't be able to pitch a game like today, this season," said Matsuzaka through his translator after Monday's win. "But I got back to my rehab and my last two rehab starts in Pawtucket went really well. I felt really good. And I knew that if I was able to pitch like that up here, the results will come.

"When I had to go back on the DL, back in July, it was very discouraging. Especially since I didn't expect my body to respond the way it did. But the encouraging part about that was, it wasn't my elbow. My elbow was feeling fine. So, despite not being sure whether I'd be able to come back strong this season and pitch a game like I did today, I was able to work at it, and the results eventually started to come."

Those results came in the form of 101 pitches in seven innings against the Royals. He allowed just one run, though it was unearned, walked two, and struck out six while giving up five hits.

It was exactly what the Red Sox needed.

"I saw a good pitcher who used all his pitches," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the win. "I thought the 2-ball, 1-strike count turned the game around about five times, where he was able to throw his breaking ball for a strike. And I thought he had good control of his cutter, on the outside part to right-handers. He got hit a couple times back-dooring to left-handers, but you know, he gave us what we needed. 100 pitches, seven innings, five hits. That's a good outing."

Valentine believes that Matsuzaka has the ability to finish the season "strong" if he throws like he did today. For Matsuzaka, that will be a good thing, more so for his own impending free agency, than it will for a Red Sox team that is essentially out of the playoff race.

But, I guess you can't tell him that.

"I've actually never experienced going into free agency, even in Japan," said Matsuzaka through his translator on Monday. "So I don't know exactly what to expect in free agency. I'm not really thinking about that at all. Right now, I'm more focused on the playoffs, and figuring out how I can contribute to the team and get the team in a position where we can be competitive."

In reality, the only thing Matsuzaka will be pitching for -- from now until the end of the regular season -- is a new contract. And if he can continue what he did on Monday against the Royals, somebody will give him another one.

It just might not be the Red Sox.

Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

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Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

The Adam Jones-Yadier Molina verbal skirmish is as predictable as it is annoying.

Was every cultural nuance for the 16 World Baseball Classic teams explained in a booklet the players had to memorize before the tournament?

No? Then it’s amazing there weren’t more moments like this.

Jones, the Orioles outfielder, said Team USA's championship game win over Puerto Rico was motivated by Puerto Rico's choice to plan a post-tournament parade for the team before the final game.

As Jones and his teammates know, parades in pro sports are for championship teams. Red Sox fans are likely aware of this.

As Jones and his teammates know, discussing a parade before a title is secured suggests overconfidence. Rex Ryan fans are likely aware of this.

After an 8-0 win for the U.S., Jones revealed the parade was used as bulletin-board material.

"Before the game, we got a note that there was some championship shirts made -- we didn't make 'em -- and a flight [arranged],” Jones said. “That didn't sit well with us. And a parade -- it didn't sit well with us."

But apparently, Jones didn't know the full context of the parade. It was reportedly planned regardless of whether Puerto Rico won.

One Team USA teammate of Jones whom CSNNE spoke with didn't believe that, however.

"It was called a champions parade that got turned into a celebration parade once they lost," the player said. "I think they just don't like getting called out by Jones, but all Jones did was tell exactly what happened."

Jones’ comments weren’t received well.

Puerto Rico's going through a trying time, a recession, and the entire island rallied behind the team.

“Adam Jones . . . is talking about things he doesn't know about," Molina told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. "He really has to get informed because he shouldn't have said those comments, let alone in public and mocking the way [preparations] were made.”

No one should be upset Jones explained what he was thinking.

Jones actually asked MLB Network host Greg Amsinger, “Should I tell the truth?”

Yes. It’s better than lying.

Look at the reactions across the WBC: the bat flips, the raw emotion. Honesty conveyed via body language.

People in the U.S. are starting to accept and crave those reactions. The WBC helped promote a basic idea: let people be themselves.

Jones said what was on his mind. We can’t celebrate bat flips and then say Jones should keep his mouth shut.

But there's an unreasonable expectation being placed on Jones here.

He heard about a parade -- which is to say, a subject he wouldn't normally think twice about or investigate before a championship baseball game.

Plus, it gave him motivation.

Why is Jones, or anyone with Team USA, more responsible for gaining an advance understanding of Puerto Rico’s parade-planning conventions -- we're talking about parade planning! -- than Puerto Rico is responsible for keeping U.S. norms in mind when making and/or talking about those plans?

No one involved here was thinking about the other’s perception or expectation. It's impossible to always do so.

But that’s how these moments develop: what’s obvious to one party is outlandish to the other.

Now Molina, Puerto Rico's catcher, wants an apology.

"He has to apologize to the Puerto Rican people," Molina told ESPN. "Obviously, you wanted to win; he didn't know what this means to [our] people."

Jones can clear the air with an apology, but he doesn't owe one. And he definitely doesn't owe one after Molina took it a step further.

"I'm sending a message to [Jones], saying, 'Look at this, right now you're in spring training working out, and we're with our people, with our silver medals,' " Molina said. "You're in spring training and you're working . . . you have no idea how to celebrate your honors, you don't know what it means.”

Team USA had no parade. Manager Jim Leyland made clear how the U.S. was celebrating, by recognizing those serving the country.

The silver lining here is how much attention the WBC has drawn, and how much conversation it can drive. People care, a great sign for the sport -- and its potential to foster better understanding across cultures.

Internationally, the sport is on parade.

Wright extends scoreless streak to 9 1/3 innings in Red Sox' 10-7 win over Pirates

Wright extends scoreless streak to 9 1/3 innings in Red Sox' 10-7 win over Pirates

The angst surrounding the David Price- and (possibly) Drew Pomeranz-less Red Sox starting rotation may have eased a little -- or a lot -- on Thursday.

Steven Wright extended his string of scoreless spring-training innings to 9 1/3 by blanking the Pirates for 4 1/3 innings in his third spring-traing start, leading the Sox to a 10-7 victory over the Pirates at SkyBlue Park.

Red Sox-Pirates box score

Wright allowed two hits -- the only two hits he's allowed this spring -- with one walk and three strikeouts.

Several of his pitching brethren, notably Heath Hembree and Robbie Ross Jr., didn't fare nearly as well. (See box score above.) But the Sox -- using what may be their regular-season batting order for the first time -- bailed them out with a 16-hit attack, led by Dustin Pedroia (3-for-3, now hitting ,500 for the spring). Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and, yes, Pablo Sandoval each added two hits. Sandoval also drove in three runs and is now hitting .362.

Xander Bogaerts went 1-for-4 in his return to the Sox from the World Baseball Classic.