boston.com Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

Boston's Dice-K struggles in 2nd start

Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka reacts after giving up a solo home run to Baltimore Orioles' Jon Knott, a non-roster player, during the second inning of their spring training baseball game in Fort Myers, Fla., Sunday, March 11, 2007. Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka reacts after giving up a solo home run to Baltimore Orioles' Jon Knott, a non-roster player, during the second inning of their spring training baseball game in Fort Myers, Fla., Sunday, March 11, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

FORT MYERS, Fla. --Welcome to the big leagues, Dice-K. Boston's $103 million pitcher with the winning smile allowed homers to two non-roster players, struggled with his control and even threw away a potential double-play grounder in his home debut against a major league team.

Daisuke Matsuzaka's impressive spring training hit its first bump, and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Red Sox 5-3 on Sunday. The Japanese star gave up four runs -- three earned -- and six hits in four innings.

Matsuzaka shrugged off his results with his usual poise and won plaudits from his manager as well as Orioles players.

"It's not something that I'm terribly worked up about," he said through an interpreter. "I'm going to go in there and there's going to be times where I get hit, where they will score runs against me."

The MVP of last year's World Baseball Classic signed a $52 million contract after Boston posted the winning $51 million bid to negotiate with the pitcher, who spent the past eight seasons with the Seibu Lions.

"I think he's going to be really good," manager Terry Francona said. "It was inevitable he would give up runs. I think I'm very realistic about how this guy can pitch. I think that's really good, but giving up four runs on March 11 doesn't deter that thinking."

There were no early signs that the right-hander would struggle against an Orioles lineup that had first-stringers in the first six spots.

He retired the side in order in the first -- Brian Roberts on a fly to center and Melvin Mora and Jay Gibbons on strikeouts. In the second, he allowed a single off his glove to Ramon Hernandez, who was stranded at first.

In the third and fourth, Matsuzaka left some balls high in the strike zone.

Jon Knott led off the third with a homer to right-center, and Jason DuBois hit a two-run shot to left-center in the fourth. After each batter swung, Matsuzaka turned around and stayed expressionless as he watched the ball fly over the fence.

"Judging from what I experienced, throwing high fastballs and high sliders can tend to be a little bit dangerous," he said with a grin.

Knott has played in 12 major league games, all with San Diego, and had his only RBI on a groundout at Boston in 2005. He did lead Triple-A Portland with 32 homers last season. DuBois had 10 homers in 86 games with the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland in 2004 and 2005.

"If he doesn't make the team, he can go to Japan and make $5 million," joked Mora, who struck out twice against Matsuzaka. The Boston starter "is not from this planet. He's coming from somewhere else. He's awesome."

He pitched two scoreless innings in a home game against Boston College on March 2 and three scoreless innings in a road game against Florida last Tuesday.

But on Sunday, Matsuzaka threw only nine first-pitch strikes to 18 batters. Of the 11 he faced in the third and fourth innings, only four saw strikes on the first pitch.

"It's not something that I'm particularly concerned about," said Matsuzaka, who threw 63 pitches, 40 for strikes.

He started the fourth by allowing a single to Miguel Tejada. Hernandez then broke his bat as he hit a hard grounder to the mound. Matsuzaka backhanded it and threw toward second. The ball sailed wide to the left of shortstop Julio Lugo for an error, putting runners at first and third. Corey Patterson followed with a sacrifice fly.

With a 1-1 count, DuBois hit a 90 mph fastball for his homer and a 4-2 lead. After Knott followed with a one-out single, Boston pitching coach John Farrell visited the mound and Matsuzaka retired Adam Stern on a fly ball before Knott was caught stealing.

Notes:@ New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick spent part of the game in the dugout with Boston manager Terry Francona. Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli also spent time in the dugout and visited with Francona before the game.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES