Matsuzaka looks good after tweaking routine

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Matsuzaka looks good after tweaking routine

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

LAKELAND, Fla. Theres often talk about the good and bad versions of Daisuke Matsuzaka each time he comes to the mound.

Matsuzaka had been Bad Dice-K all spring heading into Tuesday afternoons outing against the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium, and there was little hope it was about to get any better. The Japanese hurler had an 11.41 ERA in his first three starts and had shown little command of his vast array of pitches as he prepared for a season thats tremendously important to his big league future.

The Tigers werent giving him any breaks either by plopping Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez and former Sox catcher Victor Martinez into the middle of their lineup for Tuesday's game.

But none of that mattered in a 2-1, 10-inning win for the Sox over the Tigers. Matsuzaka was, in fact, Good Dice-K starting at the warmup session in the bullpen and he wound up pitching five shutout innings, allowing only two hits and one walk, with five strikeouts.

He just pounded the strike zone, threw all his pitches for strikes, said Terry Francona. We tell all of our pitchers that if they do it, good things will happen.

Jason Varitek couldfeel the power and electricity on his fastball, and consequently theSox righty didnt throw anything off-speed until the third inning. It was a performance that showed everyone just how good Matsuzaka can be when things are working.

"Everybody needs nuggets every once in awhile," said Varitek in one of his more Zen moments talking about one of his starters. "It was a good nugget for Matsuzaka today.

He was able to establish himself today," Varitek said. "Good mix. He started with location first and we were able to do different things off of that. He was good today.

Part of the intrigue behind Matsuzakas strong outing was the decision -- by Matsuzaka and new pitching coach Curt Young -- to tweak his routine between starts. Matsuzaka customarily combined his side throwing session and long toss regimen during the same day and both were vigorous, as is expected with the notoriously throw-happy Matsuzaka. Now he does his side session and long toss on separate days.

The Japanese righty indicated hed be sticking with the alteration that he and Young came up with this week.

Everyone associated with the Sox knows that if Matsuzaka can once again pitch the way he did during his first two seasons in Boston, then there is some truly scary potential for the starting staff.

If Matsuzaka can come out of camp healthy and be something close to the 18-3, 2.90 ERA hurler he was in 2008, then that takes a tremendous amount of pressure off fellow rotation members like Josh Beckett and John Lackey.

There are whispers Matsuzaka could be on the trade market, but its hard to believe there are many teams interested in the relatively high-maintenance pitcher adjusting to a new environment.

Instead the Sox and Matsuzaka are working to get back to what made the righty such an effective pitcher early in his career.

I was able to throw strikes with my breaking ball and behind in the count, said Matsuzaka, who began tinkering with the breaking stuff once his fastball was fully under command. When I saw the regular members of the Tigers in the lineup, I probably pitched a lot more closely to how I would pitch in the regular season. That was a good part of the game.

I was able to modify what was bad before in other starts and really bring it about into a positive way.

Francona said he was looking for some purpose out of Matsuzakas pitching prior to the game, and the Sox found that and then some. Matsuzaka also found some meaning in whats been a trying last week for him at spring training.

The Sox righty, along with Hideki Okajima, Junichi Tazawa and a fellow Japanese minor-leaguer in the Sox system, collected money for tsunami and earthquake relief funds prior to Monday nights game against the New York Yankees at City of Palms Park. Then the hurler went out and pitched against the Tigers with the thoughts and hopes of millions of his fellow countrymen on his mind.

"I'm always aware of what happened in Japan and I understand the fans are always watching me on the mound, so I would like to continue throwing better for people in Japan, as well as fans, said Matsuzaka through Sox interpreter Kenta Yamada.

With some pretty understandable motivation and his confidence firmly in place, the pieces are certainly in place for Good Dice-K to have a nice run to start the season in Boston.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Report: Red Sox have inquired about trades for Braves’ pitchers

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Report: Red Sox have inquired about trades for Braves’ pitchers

While the Red Sox have inquired about both Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino from the Atlanta Braves, ESPN’s Jim Bowden reported, although Braves GM John Coppolella said he doesn’t see them trading Teheran.

In a Twitter chat with fans, Coppolella didn’t said he didn’t see the Braves parting with Teheran.

On MLB Network Radio, Bowden, a former major league GM, said Atlanta is interested Red Sox top prospects Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi, who naturally Boston would be very reluctant to part with.  

Teheran, a right-handed starter, is 3-7 but with a 2.66 ERA and Vizcaino, a right-handed reliever, is 1-2 with a 2.01 ERA  and 44 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings for the Braves, who are in last place in the National League East. 

 

Friday's Red Sox-Rangers lineups: Brentz starts in LF

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Friday's Red Sox-Rangers lineups: Brentz starts in LF

It won’t take long for Bryce Brentz to get used to the major leagues again. Called up Friday after Chris Young was placed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, Brentz gets the start in left field as the Red Sox open a three-game series tonight against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas (8:05 p.m.). 

Brentz, 27, who was hitting .278 with three homers and 17 RBI at Pawtucket, will make his first major league appearance since 2014 and bat seventh against Texas left-hander Nick Martinez (1-1, 5.14 ERA).  David Price starts (8-4, 4.24) starts for Boston. 

The lineups:

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Bryce Brentz LF
Travis Shaw 3B
Christian Vazquez C

David Price LHP

RANGERS
Shin-Soo Choo RF
Ian Desmond CF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Ryan Rua LF
Prince Fielder DH
Elvis Andrus SS
Roughned Odor 2B
Jurickson Profar 1B
Bobby Wilson C

Nick Martinez LHP
 

Red Sox place Chris Young on DL, recall Bryce Brentz

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Red Sox place Chris Young on DL, recall Bryce Brentz

To no one's surprise, the Red Sox have placed outfielder Chris Young -- who collapsed Thursday on the basepaths after suffering a severe right hamstring strain and had to be helped off the field -- on the 15-day disabled list.

The team recalled outfielder Bryce Brentz from Pawtucket as a replacement. Brentz will be with the Sox tonight in Texas when they open a six-game road trip.

Young had taken over as the Sox' everyday left fielder after a concussion forced Brock Holt to the DL, and was hitting .277 with 6 home runs and 15 RBI in 130 at-bats. He had played so well that manager John Farrell talked of moving Holt back to his infield-outfield, super-utility role when he returns and giving Young a large portion of the playing time in left.

Now, however, he appears to be facing a lengthy absence and Holt, who's been on a rehab assignment with the PawSox, may once again take over as the primary left fielder.

Brentz, who last played for in the Red Sox in September 2014, played 12 games at Double-A Portland this year before being sent back to Pawtucket. He has a combined average of .261 with 4 home runs and 20 RBI in 184 at-bats. Brentz was the Red Sox' No. 1 draft choice in 2010.