Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka played catch for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in June to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. According to the Kyodo News (via JapanBall.com), Matsuzaka threw 39 times from “short range” in Fort Myers as a starting point to the gradual rebuilding of his arm strength.
After the throwing session, the 31-year-old reflected on what he considered a significant milestone in his rehab process.
”I have been waiting a long time for this day,” Matsuzaka told reporters in Fort Myers. ”It was the first time I threw a ball in awhile but I was relieved because my elbow didn’t hurt at all,” he said.
”I was nervous about my first throw because I didn’t want to throw it in a strange way. Since it was my first time holding a baseball in a long time, I wasn’t quite sure about my release.”
Matsuzaka made just eight appearances (seven starts) in 2011, going 3-3 with a 5.30 ERA before suffering the elbow injury that ultimately required season-ending surgery. While he remained true to the wildly inconsistent form he’d shown over the last three seasons, his absence nevertheless contributed to the decimation of the Red Sox’ starting pitching depth that ultimately contributed to the team’s collapse in September.
While Matsuzaka has a stated goal of returning sometime in the second half of the 2012 season — the last of the six-year, $52 million deal he signed with the Sox after Boston won its posting bid of $51.11 million on him in Nov. 2006 — it remains to be seen whether he ever pitches in a major league game for the Sox again.
That said, to date, Matsuzaka’s recovery from Tommy John has remained very much on schedule. Going forward, Matsuzaka said that he hopes to throw every other day, and he acknowledged that he will take more time both in preparing for his throwing sessions and getting post-throwing treatment.
In five seasons with the Sox, Matsuzaka is 49-30 with a 4.25 ERA while striking out 8.2 batters per nine innings and walking 4.4 hitters per nine. He will make $10 million in 2012.