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Red Sox notebook

After rough start, smooth sailing for rookie

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By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / August 12, 2009

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Junichi Tazawa was probably wondering what’s up with the major leagues?

In Friday’s 15-inning marathon against the Yankees he surrendered a two-run walkoff homer to Alex Rodriguez. Then in his first major league start, he allowed three runs (one earned) in the first inning last night when Nick Green made a bad throw and couldn’t turn an inning-ending double-play.

Then an all-out brawl broke out.

Welcome to the majors, kid.

“I was just coming back to the bench and I was really surprised,’’ Tazawa said through his interpreter. “I really didn’t know what was happening.’’ He confirmed it was his first brawl ever, in the Japanese industrial league or minor leagues.

After allowing three runs in the first inning he said, “I was unsure. I just thought that I need to keep pitching the way I know how to do.’’

While he was happy about his first win, he got a big kick out of pitching at Fenway Park.

“As soon as I signed with the Red Sox, I was thinking about the day that I pitch here,’’ he said. “It is really a nice ballpark, and I was very excited about it.’’

After the game authenticators from the Hall of Fame were making official various items from the game. Brad Penny was able to get him the winning ball.

“Trainer Masai Takahashi warned me that [closer Jonathan] Papelbon may throw the ball [into the stands], so I was kind of on the look out for it, but didn’t know how to get it. Brad Penny gave me the ball and I have no idea how he ended up with it, but I am just glad that I have it.’’

Tazawa lasted five innings and allowed three runs, one earned, on four hits with six strikeouts and two walks.

“I didn’t expect to be in the major leagues and I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. Things have been just leveling up very fast for me. I [didn’t] think I would get a win and I’m very happy that I did.’’

Rehab for Wakefield
It’s rather remarkable that Tim Wakefield, a 43-year-old knuckleballer, might be the player the Red Sox have missed most in the funk they’ve been in since the All-Star Game. Wakefield is making progress in his return from a strained back and calf injury and will start for Pawtucket Saturday against the Gwinnett Braves, an Atlanta affiliate.

Wakefield has never made a rehab start in the minors. He pitched for Pawtucket in 1995 when the Red Sox first obtained him off the Pirates’ scrap heap, but for the most part he has rejected the idea of a rehab start when coming off an injury. Not this time.

Manager Terry Francona thinks it’s a good idea to have him go three or four innings to test his sore calf, which affects him on cover plays at first base. Wakefield seems to be on board with the plan.

Meanwhile, Daisuke Matsuzaka also got a step closer with a 40-pitch bullpen session yesterday in Fort Myers, Fla. Matsuzaka will escalate to 55 pitches in three days and 65 pitches three days after that. Yesterday, he threw only fastballs; in the next two sessions, he will throw all of his pitches.

For his Pawtucket start, Wakefield will have his usual catcher, George Kottaras, who will begin a rehab assignment with the team the same day.

Negative is positive
While it appears that the Sox don’t want to give up more pitching for a shortstop, they got better news on Jed Lowrie, who is on the DL with ulnar neuritis in his left wrist. An MRI and other tests don’t show any major damage, just a mild nerve irritation. Francona said Lowrie will be reexamined Friday . . . The Sox have had 13 players serve 16 stints on the disabled list this season . . . The Sox have done their due diligence on shortstops throughout the season, though they haven’t pulled the trigger on a deal. They recently looked into Cristian Guzman and J.J. Hardy, but in both cases the price is high. The Brewers would want a major league-ready starting pitcher for Hardy, one who is under their control beyond this season. That likely rules out Brad Penny. The Brewers discussed Daniel Bard and Justin Masterson before the trading deadline, but the Sox used Masterson as a chip for Victor Martinez and deemed Bard untouchable. Guzman cleared waivers, but the red-hot Nationals are somewhat reluctant to deal him since they don’t have another shortstop.

Within range?
John Smoltz’s locker is still intact in the clubhouse, but the 42-year-old righthander is still in limbo, designated for assignment. The Rangers and Cardinals have shown interest, so the Sox might be able to trade him. . . The Sox have used 45 players this season, two shy of matching last year’s total. They have used 21 pitchers. Tazawa is the fifth player to make his major league debut with the Sox this season . . . Jacoby Ellsbury stole his 52d base, tying Tris Speaker for second best by a Red Sox, two behind Tommy Harper.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com.

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