Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The return of Daisuke Matsuzaka

I mentioned the other day, not for the first time, that the Red Sox have played most of the season without their number 3 starter. Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched for Japan in the World Baseball Classic, and came into camp late, because of it. He'd been working with the Japanese team, not doing the Boston conditioning program, and he wasn't ready when the season started. After two poor starts (6 1/3 innings, 9 runs) he went on to the DL for 5 weeks, attempting to pitch himself into condition. It didn't work. He came back on May 22 and proceeded to allow 23 runs in 28 2/3 innings over the next 4 weeks (6 starts). At which point the lack of proper spring training bit them, and he went down to extended spring training with "shoulder fatigue." They went back to the basics, and started him working as if it were the beginning of spring training.

Many people wrote him off completely. Back in May, I commented that
Daisuke Matsuzaka was good in his first season, was one of the best starters in the AL last year, and yet his slow start has huge numbers of WEEI callers (and hosts) looking for a way to get him out of the rotation. Just ridiculous.

He came back tonight. He went up against the Angels, currently the 2nd best offensive team in the AL, a team that has hit him fairly well in the past. He went 6 innings. He struck out five, walked three, allowed three hits and no runs. He threw 94 pitches. He worked out of a 2nd and 3rd, no out situation in the 5th.

In short, he was excellent.

The fact remains that, when healthy, he has been a good to very good Major League starter. His absence hurt the Red Sox this year, and his return boosts their playoff chances. A rotation of Beckett, Lester, Buchholz and Matsuzaka headed into a playoff series is formidable.

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