|Daisuke Matsuzaka doesn't like sitting around; he much prefers to be active, specifically throwing. (JOE GIZA/REUTERS)|
Slinging it with best of them
NEW YORK -- He found a place to throw. Like he always does.
I went to Yankee Stadium last night. Like Daisuke Matsuzaka, I was in New York a day early to get extra rest for tonight's big game with the Yankees. And sure enough, there he was. Throwing.
Walking toward the press gate at Yankee Stadium, I glanced toward the ball fields between The House That Ruth Built and the Deegan Expressway. And I noticed a guy with a unique delivery. Throwing off one of the sandlot mounds.
Closer inspection confirmed my first impression. It was Dice-K, wearing gray sweat pants, throwing to one of the hundreds of Spanish-speaking kids who are always playing ball on those fields.
I tried to talk to them, but it was futile. Dice-K just nodded and smiled like he always does. The lucky catcher didn't understand my questions, either. For a moment I wondered how they communicated with one another, but clearly both spoke the universal language of baseball. Dice-K threw to the kid for a good hour and a half before he went into his 300-foot long-toss routine.
Done with that, he walked into Yankee Stadium, made friends with a vendor, and -- as I type this, I am watching Dice-K throwing bags of peanuts 30 rows into the stands as the money is passed down by cooperative fans.
That's Dice-K for you. This is the man who loves to throw.
Got one of those kids in your neighborhood who's always playing basketball? The kid who dribbles a ball to school, then spins a basketball on his finger when he's watching TV? That's Dice-K when it comes to throwing.
Walpole Joe Morgan advocated pitch ers throwing all the time.
"You never see a catcher with a sore arm, and those guys are always throwing," Morgan said.
Joe would love Matsuzaka. The young man from Japan is throwing in the morning. He's throwing at night. He's throwing, throwing, throwing.
If the Sox would allow him to do what he wants to do, Dice-K would make Warren Spahn look like a short reliever. Fear of overwork and physical breakdown has been an issue with Red Sox management and uniform personnel, but it hasn't stopped Dice-K from throwing 24/7.
Remember last Sunday night at Fenway against the Yankees? Most of you went to bed after the Sox completed the sweep, just before midnight. Not Dice-K. He went over to Belmont Hill and did some throwing to former Sox catcher Rich Gedman. They got done around 3 in the morning.
On his way home from Belmont Hill, Dice-K saw one of those rickety station wagons trolling through his neighborhood, delivering the Monday morning newspapers. Dice-K got into the car, rode shotgun with the guy, and starting throwing newspapers onto porches. Apparently he wanted to keep his shoulder loose.
The Sox wouldn't let him throw Monday, so he stopped at Howard Ferguson Field at Newton North High School on the way to Fenway. He threw to North catcher Ryan McCarthy for about an hour. Then he walked over to the football stadium and tossed footballs with some kids who were hanging out after school. Done with the footballs, he went to the track and threw the javelin for a half-hour.
On the way to his car, Dice-K was distracted by the Newton North ultimate Frisbee team. He joined them for some tosses. He was amazed to learn that the ultimate Frisbee kids already knew how to throw the Gyro.
Tuesday morning he went over to Parsons Field in Brookline and threw for a couple of hours with a bunch of Northeastern Huskies. It wasn't his day to throw at Fenway, but he felt he needed the work.
The Sox finally let him long toss in Camden Yards Wednesday, but what they didn't know was that he spent the morning at the University of Maryland, throwing batting practice to the Terrapins of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Terps wanted to ask him about his three innings against Boston College in February, but Dice-K was too busy throwing to answer questions.
Full disclosure here: Everything above was made up. None of it happened. But it is perhaps only a slight exaggeration.
These are absolute facts: Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 250 pitches in a game in the prestigious Koshien (think Japanese March Madness) tournament when he was 17. It was a 17-inning complete game. Two days later, he threw a no-hitter. In the Japanese professional league, he averaged one complete game every 2.8 starts. In most games, he is just getting warmed up in the seventh inning. He averaged 122 pitches per start last year. He can throw 140 pitches in his sleep. He has thrown bullpen sessions of more than 330 pitches. He has no interest in pitch counts.
He pitches tonight in Yankee Stadium. It's the latest in a long line of "biggest games in his life." He'll be happy to go nine. Or 10, if they need him. Or 17.
He is Daisuke Matsuzaka. He is the man who loves to throw.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.