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Matsuzaka will mix it up

Righthander's array outlined by Farrell

Daisuke Matsuzaka tips his cap after working his outing. He threw 25 pitches -- 19 strikes. Daisuke Matsuzaka tips his cap after working his outing. He threw 25 pitches -- 19 strikes. (JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF)

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- What you saw last night were coming attractions. Pitching coach John Farrell offered a primer on Daisuke Matsuzaka's repertoire, one that only was given partial exposure in his two-inning, 25-pitch performance at City of Palms Park.

The four primary pitches in his arsenal, according to Farrell?

"Fastball, slider, curve, change," he said before Matsuzaka's start against Boston College. "He can also throw a two-seam [fastball]. He'll also throw a forkball on any given day. So you can begin to define that there are upward of six pitches he throws, but his basic approach is going to be those four."

But then you have to factor how he changes speeds, especially on his slider.

"His curveball and slider have similar shape to them, but certainly the velocity and power and how he finishes the hitter will be different," said Farrell. "When he throws it harder, it's much tighter and lighter."

Farrell went into some detail in discussing what makes Matsuzaka's slider so effective.

"One is his command of it," he said. "Certainly the power and late action to it. He can get it on the back foot of a lefthander. He can put away a righthander with it by taking it out of the zone.

"He also shows the ability to flatten it out and run it in. He can throw a cut fastball as well. It's going to be even tighter and lighter than the slider. He's got exceptional feel. As we're talking about this multitude of pitches, what makes him so impressive is he repeats his delivery, and the feel and finger pressure and his ability to manipulate the baseball is exceptional."

You throw as many pitches as Matsuzaka, and a hitter does not have the option of sitting on a particular pitch.

"Because he can throw any pitch at any count, that lends to his unpredictability, which is really his strength," Farrell said. "We could look at the physical strengths he has, but in combination with the command of all the other pitches, it's a rare package."

Farrell said Matsuzaka throws a true forkball, meaning he holds it deeper in his fingers than other varieties of split-fingered fastballs.

"There are times his changeup has kind of a fading or screwball kind of action," Farrell said. "Some may misread that as his forkball, but he also has a true forkball. He also has a changeup that to me, just in the early read, the changeup is the one pitch that really stands out.

"Granted, you can see the velocity [of his fastball], but just the arm speed, the deception of all the pitches he has, how tight the spin is with his changeup, with his curveball. You have a fastball look to his changeup, but the action at the end is what is so deceiving."

Former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martínez, of course, threw a changeup that by consensus was the best in baseball.

"I think it's similar," Farrell said of Matsuzaka's change, "because against lefties it's going to have that late diving action as it approaches the strike zone, much like the screwball. It's not a true screwball, but it has that kind of action.

"Again, it all goes back to the deception and the arm speed he creates to give you the look that you've got to gear up for a fastball because of the way his body is selling it. And he has tremendous feel with it."

There's still a learning curve for Farrell as he becomes acquainted with the 26-year-old righthander.

"If there is a basic approach for him, any breaking pitch he throws is to go away from the hitter," Farrell said, "because then he has the ability to speed up their bats with hard stuff in, and a two-seamer in on a righthander."

Matsuzaka said he is not sure he's going to use the two-seamer in a game, but he has been throwing it in bullpen sessions and says the major league ball is more conducive to throwing it than the Japanese ball.

"He says the seams are a little higher here," Farrell said. "There is a difference even in the feel, and the material that's used. He's made a comment about that. In his mind, I think he feels the ball feels a little bit heavier here, but in fact it is the same weight. But there is a little difference in the feel and the composition of the ball.

"He throws it in the bullpen now, and he's got definitive action to it. That's what's so impressive, what he's able to do to manipulate the baseball in very different flights and different actions as it gets to the plate."

BC got a taste last night. There's much more to come.

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