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Sharp replies issued

Matsuzaka gets pointed response

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By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / July 29, 2009

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The frustration was evident, in their words and facial expressions and use of the word “disappointment.’’ Both Red Sox manager Terry Francona and pitching coach John Farrell were sharp in their words toward Daisuke Matsuzaka, the pitcher now rehabbing in Fort Myers, Fla., who expressed his criticisms of the Sox training regimen.

That did not sit well.

“Disappointed, yeah, because there’s been a lot of conversation, a lot of back and forth, a lot of trying to understand his perspective,’’ Farrell said. “Again, it has to be noted that we have the utmost respect for what he’s accomplished in the past, what he’s accomplished in two years here, and how he likes to train and, as these situations have arose, there’s been many sit-down meetings [where] thoughts have been exchanged back and forth.

“So the disappointment comes from [him] basically airing his dirty laundry.’’

Matsuzaka spoke to a Japanese website, divulging frustration in methods he believes have stymied him and his ability to be an effective major league pitcher. But Farrell even took issue with just how good Matsuzaka has been over his Sox career, with high pitch counts and low numbers of innings, and throwing too many pitches to get too few outs.

“It’s one thing to say that, ‘OK, we’ll let you go 125 pitches,’ ’’ Farrell said. “But you know what? You’ve got to go out and be effective. We’re not just going to let someone sit on the mound and throw 125 pitches and be down, 10-0. There has to be some accountability and responsibility on the part of the player. And that’s not just in this situation. That’s with any pitcher that we have.’’

Matsuzaka is 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA and went on the disabled list June 21 with a strained right shoulder. He was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA last season.

Francona and Farrell said they had spoken to Matsuzaka since his comments came out, with Francona saying, “I’ve had enough. I think they’ve had enough of me.’’

“I actually thought we made huge strides in communicating through some of his frustrations and then maybe some of ours,’’ the manager said. “So to hear him say that is disappointing. Not disappointing that he has an opinion, because that’s very welcome. Disappointing in that we took a meeting that was confidential and he decided to air it publicly. Yeah, we’re very disappointed.’’

The Sox came out of their last meeting, a 90-minute session last Friday before Matsuzaka returned to Florida, thinking both sides were on the same page, that they had agreed on the way the pitcher could get back on the mound. That, obviously, is no longer the case, as Francona called the decision to speak out, “poor judgment.’’

Asked about Matsuzaka’s training methods, and not allowing him to do the additional throwing he was used to in Japan, Farrell said adjustments to his program were not mandated. The only stipulation was that his shoulder had to be strong enough to hold up under that stress. That hasn’t always been the case, nor has Matsuzaka’s overall conditioning met with the team’s approval.

“We are not opposed to what would be considered a high volume of throwing, provided everything else is in shape to support it, from core strength to shoulder strength, just to ensure that a proper arm slot and normal arm motion is repeated and maintained,’’ Farrell said. “When any pitcher falls into what we would consider a red category, we’ve got to take a timeout, say there’s some strengthening issues that have to be addressed before we feel comfortable enough to allow that pitcher to proceed.

“That’s based on a number of pitchers that when they get into that area you’re predisposed to injury. So we’d like to think that we’re trying to do our best to put him in the best situation and yet this is where the two worlds, the two baseball worlds, somewhat collide.’’

Farrell said while he’s optimistic that Matsuzaka, who is in the third season of a six-year, $52 million contract, will not have a completely lost year, there is no date for the pitcher’s return from the disabled list.

“Regardless of where you’re from, the body has to have some recuperation and some rejuvenation period inside a five-day cycle,’’ Farrell said. “At some point there’s a level of diminishing returns. The more throwing, while that may be what gives some confidence, there’s a dropoff in physical stamina. There’s a point of diminishing returns when you pile on volume.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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