Matsuzaka happy after first spring training outing

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Matsuzaka happy after first spring training outing

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. In his first four seasons with the Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka has posted a record of 46-27 with a 4.18 ERA. Although he is 19 games above .500, most of that can be attributed to his 2008 season, when he went 18-3 (2.90). Take that season away and his record is 28-24, with a 4.70 ERA.

While those numbers might not be awful, they are closer to what might be expected from a No. 5 starter than certainly from a top-of-the rotation arm, which is how he was billed before his inaugural 2007 season. Other numbers that are just as concerning 144 games over the last two seasons for which he has been on the disabled list.

After his first Grapefruit League outing, Monday against the Twins at City of Palms Park, Matsuzaka acknowledged as much.

In the past two years the condition, the overall condition was not excellent and was not to the point where I needed to be, Matsuzaka said through interpreter Kenta Yamada. So this year my goal will be to in better shape and be on the mound throughout the whole year during the regular season.

Matsuzaka, who appears to be slimmer this spring, is entering the fifth year of a six-year contract that will pay him 20 million over the next two seasons. He has no worries, he said, about his overall condition. In the offseason he worked on strengthening his legs to help him maintain his condition throughout the season.

His goal for the season, he said, is to be a part of the rotation. Its important for him, he said, to be able to compete at the same level as the other starters.

At this stage theres no promise to be a part of the rotation, he said. So, in order to solidify to the rotation I like to keep the good health, healthy conditions, and then show the good result during the spring season.

Working with catcher Jason Varitek on Monday, Matsuzaka went two innings, giving up one run on a Jason Kubel solo homer, with a walk and a strikeout on 25 pitches (14 strikes). He had two outs and a 3-and-2 count when Kubel blasted a shot of the screen in center field. Matsuzaka said he is trying to incorporate a cutter into his repertoire more.

As its the first outing of the spring season, the fastball is running pretty well, Matsuzaka said. Thats something Im very confident with. Overall, I think I did a very good job as a first outing.

The command of the fastball was very good . . . The cutter was not as good as I expected. So I will take a step to fix it during this spring season.

Manager Terry Francona was pleased with what he saw.

Very good velocity. That was exciting to see that, especially early on, he said. Very aggressive with his fastball. Had some good life to it. I was excited about that.

He threw the ball fine, said one scout in attendance. Good tempo with his delivery and went right at the hitters. He was aggressive and looked confident.

At this point in the spring, Francona is looking for simple things from his pitchers: building arm strength and pounding the strike zone.

The expectations for Matsuzaka will be much higher during the season.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Red Sox confident in Smith-less bullpen, plan no moves at this point

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Red Sox confident in Smith-less bullpen, plan no moves at this point

BOSTON -- The loss of reliever Carson Smith for the rest of this season -- and the start of next year, too -- is potentially a significant blow for the Red Sox bullpen.

But both vice-president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and manager John Farrell expressed confidence that the Sox can survive -- and even thrive -- without the hard-throwing right-handed reliever, who underwent Tommy John surgery Tuesday and will be sidelined until at least the middle of next season.

"Unfortunately, we really haven't had Carson much this year,'' noted Dombrowski, referring to the total of 2 2/3 innings Smith has pitched, "so our bullpen now has the ninth, eighth and seventh innings set with Craig [Kimbrel], Koji [Uehara] and [Junichi Tazawa]. [Matt] Barnes and Heath [Hembree] have both had opportunities to step up and pitched well for us. We'll continue to see if they do that.''

"I really like our bullpen,'' echoed Farrell. "We've had depth emerge with Hembree and Barnes, and we're able to distribute the workload evenly to protect Taz and Koji.''

But the Sox' high-leverage set-up crew features a 41-year-old (Uehara) and Tazawa, who has faltered badly in the August in each of the last two seasons because of overwork.

"I guess it's something we'll continue to watch,'' said Dombrowski. "There's still quite a bit of time before the [Aug. 1] trade deadline. So you continue to watch that. I feel comfortable with the way it is now, but we'll have to wait and see. We didn't anticipate this and that's really why we got Carson -- to give us more depth in case something did happen. But we'll continue to see what takes place.''

Dombrowski said it was too soon to begin exploring outside trade possibilities, given that talk doesn't intensify until after the draft in June.

"If something [else] were to happen,'' Dombrowski said, "I guess we'd be more aggressive. But right now, the way Barnes and Hembree (are pitching), along with [Robbie] Ross Jr. and [Tommy] Layne . . . we feel pretty good about our bullpen -- right now.''

"I really like our bullpen,'' noted Farrell. "We've had depth emerge with Hembree and Barnes and we're able to distribute the workload evenly to protect Taz and Koji.''

One possibile option could be taking a look at Joe Kelly in the bullpen. Kelly was sensational Saturday, allowing one hit in 6 2/3 innings in his first start back from a shoulder impingement. But it's long been thought that his stuff would translate well to the bullpen, and the Sox will have six starting pitchers when Eduardo Rodriguez returns.

"It's a great question, but it's not one I'll approach at this time,'' said Dombrowski. "We haven't specifically talked about putting Joe Kelly in the bullpen. But we're also aware that we're not going to use six starters.''

Smith is expected to miss the next 11-14 months, the typical recovery time from Tommy John surgery.

He was first injured on March 21, when he left the mound in Jupiter, Fla. during a Grapefruit League game. The diagnosis was a strained flexor muscle in the forearm, and he returned to action earlier this month. But he continued to experience discomfort, and a followup MRI Friday revealed a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL).

Dombrowski said "there was nothing at the time in March (that suggested a torn UCL). Flexor muscles, sometimes that leads to (torn UCL's). But not always. It's an alert that goes up in your mind when dealing with elbow. But you can't spend time obsessing about it, because then you wouldn't sleep on any night.''

Dombrowski said there were no red flags at the time of last December's trade with Seattle that Smith may be pre-disposed to this kind of injury with his cross-fire, three-quarters delivery.

"I think when you look at his delivery,'' acknowledged Dombrowski, "you'd say it's an unusual delivery. It's probably more apt to have injury. We had the medical information and we thought he'd be fine.''

Tuesday's Red Sox-Rockies lineups: Shaw sits out for first time all year

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Tuesday's Red Sox-Rockies lineups: Shaw sits out for first time all year

BOSTON -- For the first time since last season, Travis Shaw is not in the Red Sox' lineup.

Shaw, suffering from a minor left-hand injury, will sit out Tuesday night's game against Colorado, snapping a string of 76 consecutive starts. Josh Rutledge will play third base in his place.

The lineups:

ROCKIES:
Charlie Blackmon CF
Trevor Story SS
Nolan Arenado 3B
Mark Reynolds 1B
Carlos Gonzalez RF
Ryan Raburn DH
Gerardo Parra LF
Dustin Garneau C
DJ LeMahieu 2B
---
Jorge De La Rosa P

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Chris Young LF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Josh Rutledge 3B
Christian Vazquez C
---
David Price P

Red Sox bullpen takes a blow: Smith to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Red Sox bullpen takes a blow: Smith to undergo Tommy John surgery

The Boston Red Sox' worst fears with Carson Smith have been realized: The reliever needs Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of the season.

The Sox announced this morning that Smith will undergo the procedure today in New York.

Smith injured his elbow during spring training and was able to pitch in only three regular-season games after being activated on May 3. His loss will probably step up the team's efforts to acquire more bullpen help, as Smith was expected to reduce the workload on Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara as set-ups for closer Craig Kimbrel. In the short term, Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree will probably help in that role.