VERO BEACH, Fla. -- It wasn't as if it was coming as a surprise. Not only had it been widely reported that Daisuke Matsuzaka was forbidden from lifting the bat off his shoulder, but Matsuzaka himself informed Dodgers catcher Russell Martin and plate umpire Ed Hickox that he wouldn't be swinging.
It started out well for Hong-Chi Kuo, who quickly got ahead of Matsuzaka, 0 and 2. And, on the third pitch, Matsuzaka thought he was done, making a motion toward the dugout only to hear Hickox call him back. He wasn't done then and, after three more balls, he was headed to first rather than going back to sit with his teammates.
"When I went out on base, my only thought was it would be great if I can make it home," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. "And I did."
Scoring on a home run -- the Red Sox' third of a rain-shortened 5-1 game that was stopped in the top of the third inning -- Matsuzaka trotted in ahead of Jacoby Ellsbury (hit by a pitch) and Eric Hinske, who had sent the ball out of the park.
But while Matsuzaka got some impromptu base running yesterday, he didn't get nearly enough pitching in during two innings. Soon after the game was called because of hurricane-style downpours that drenched Dodgertown and turned the dugouts into swimming pools, Matsuzaka could be seen in the covered cages, throwing another 77 pitches in five simulated innings to Jason Varitek, on top of the 34 pitches (24 strikes) to Dodger hitters, 20 of them in the first inning.
Though the two minor leaguers scheduled to stand in against Matsuzaka didn't get a bat on the ball, a few Dodgers did. Rafael Furcal began the game by smoking a ground-rule double down the right-field line, followed by a sacrifice bunt by Juan Pierre. With Furcal on third, Marlon Anderson blooped a high changeup into left field, scoring the Dodgers' lone run. Olmedo Saenz followed by lining a high fastball for a single, putting runners on first and second. But that was it, with Matsuzaka using his slider to help close out the inning.
"I think what Daisuke does is he comes in trying to establish all his pitches early in the game, and what we've seen as he gets deeper into the game [is] his fastball location and fastball velocity will continue to peak or improve," pitching coach John Farrell said. "But that's not to say the early innings are a detriment or lack of quality."
Matsuzaka also managed to get in some extra work from the stretch, beginning the second inning (he set down the side in order) pitching that way.
But perhaps more important than the abbreviated in-game adjustments was the addition to Matsuzaka's pregame routine.
"Today we took a little bit more of an extensive approach toward review of the hitters, tendencies that we have or information that we have on hitters," Farrell said. "That will become more in-depth as we get closer to the start of the season and certainly once the regular season starts with advance reports. Jason is very in-depth when it comes to preparing a game plan. But today was the first of the four starts that Daisuke's had that we've sat down and had a meeting prior to the game to give him that information."
With Varitek behind the plate, that information will only get more extensive. Yesterday, however, Varitek was busy demonstrating -- with Hinske and Wily Mo Peña -- just how impressive the Red Sox' lineup can be in support of their pitchers. All three hit home runs, including the three-run shot by Hinske, on a day the wind might have helped just a little.
"Even in the games I haven't been throwing in, the run support on this team has been great," Matsuzaka said. "It was great to see that there's a team behind me that are going to score a lot of runs."
Even one by Matsuzaka himself.
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.