ALLENTOWN, Pa. - For a while, Daisuke Matsuzaka looked as though he had never been away.
In his first appearance on a mound since May 27, Matsuzaka was sharp for four of his five innings in a rehab start for Triple A Pawtucket against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs last night.
Matsuzaka, who was placed on the disabled list by the Red Sox May 28 with a mild strain of his rotator cuff, faced 18 batters and tossed 65 pitches, 47 for strikes. He allowed three hits, struck out five, and walked one in the PawSox' 9-6 victory.
After four hitless innings - and striking out the side in the second - Matsuzaka ran into some trouble in the fifth, allowing three hits and two runs. But he said he was satisfied with the effort.
"I approached this game like any other and prepared in the usual way," he said through his interpreter. "I just wanted to get the team a win.
"There were a few things I wanted to try out while I was out there, and one of them was [locating] my fastball, and I feel I was able to achieve that. I don't know what percent I feel like I am, but I am ready to pitch again."
Asked if he tired in the fifth, he said, "Not necessarily. There were no problems."
Pitching against the Triple A affiliate of the Phillies, Matsuzaka seemed to work with ease, throwing mostly in the high 80s in retiring the first nine hitters he faced. He faced the minimum 12 hitters over the first four innings (one IronPig reached on an error and was caught stealing).
Matsuzaka got ahead of 10 of the first 12 hitters he faced and threw 31 strikes among his first 39 pitches.
But in the fifth, Andy Tracy's single to right began a rough inning for the righthander. Chris Snelling followed with a hit to right and Brennan King spoiled the shutout with a one-out double to left-center.
Matsuzaka uncorked a wild pitch to score the second run and walked Oscar Robles before settling down to get out of the inning.
Matsuzaka drew a crowd of 8,803 to
He seemed to enjoy the experience.
"I met a lot of the guys during spring training and they were familiar faces to me," he said. "It was fun being around them tonight. I had a good time."