By Sean McAdam
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Make of this what you will, but ever since the Red Sox spoke to Daisuke Matsuzaka about changing his between-start throwing routine, Matsuzaka has been quite efficient.
In three outings since, Matsuszka has thrown 16 23 innings and given up just three earned runs. Saturday night, in the second-to-last game the Sox will play at City of Palms Park, he limited the Minnesota Twins to a single run over six innings.
"His stuff was crisp,'' said Terry Francona. "His fastball had some real good finish to it.''
Matsuzaka walked just one and generally stayed ahead of hitters and has been more aggressive this spring.
"Curt (Young) has been pouding that -- throw strikes and work ahead,'' said Francona.
"It's good to show good results,'' said Matsuzaka, "to make Tito and Curt more comfortable.''
In perhaps their most soul-crushing loss since Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, the Red Sox surrendered six runs in the ninth inning last night, turning a certain Mayor's Cup clinching win into a cruel defeat, 9-8 to their cross-town rivals, the Minnesota Twins.
The Sox had won the last four Mayor's Cup titles, awarded annually for spring supremacy in Fort Myers.
The Sox have won every Mayor's Cup since 2004.
"I'm waiting for my phone call from President Obama,'' joked Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.
The Sox had an 8-1 lead after seven, built on a bases-loaded triple from Darnell McDonald and a homer -- his first of the spring -- from Adrian Gonzalez. Dustin Pedroia also had a run-scoring double and Kevin Youkilis contribute a sacrifice fly.
But the Twins chipped away with two runs in the eighth and six off Bobby Jenks in the ninth. Jenks wasn't helped by some sloppy plays behind him, but added to the problem with a walk.
"Maybe the pressure of the Mayor's Cup got to him,'' said Francona jokingly. "I think tonight was just a bad night.''
By losing Saturday night, the Red Sox now have a nine-game losing streak, their longest spring streak ever.
The Sox have 32 players in camp, though that number is somewhat deceiving.
That total includes Junichi Tazawa, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and was Saturday placed on the 60-day disabled list.
It also includes Drew Sutton and Nate Spears, who have been told they will not make the roster, but will be brought to Houston to give the Red Sox extra bodies for the final exhibition game.
Also on that list: catcher Paul Hoover, who won't make the team. The Sox have been impressed with Hoover's baseball intelligence and are believed to have spoken to him about a job as an instructor.
While the Sox travel to Sarasota to face Baltimore Sunday in their next-to-last Florida road game, Jon Lester will stay back and pitch in a camp game at the team's Player Development Complex.
That outing will represent Lester's final tuneup before his first Opening Day assignment.
Brandon Duckworth and Matt Albers are among the pitchers set to throw in Sarasota.
Outfielder Josh Reddick, who had been battling some soreness in his right side, got into last night's game and was optioned to Pawtucket after the game.
Reddick hadn't played since last weekend.
"Regardless of whether it's a guy making 100 million,'' said Francona, "or some kid who might be going to Triple-A, we have an obligation to do him right. We want to get him in a game and just make sure (he's okay before optioning him out)."