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Affording opportunity

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  February 22, 2007 02:27 PM

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It might seem an eye-opening feat that Daisuke Matsuzaka threw a 103-pitch bullpen session in the first week of spring training, but according to Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, it was of benefit to both the player and team.

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Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 103 pitches in a bullpen session Thursday. (Reuters Photo)

"Given the bullpens to date and the amount of long-tossing Daisuke has done, this was, I think, in line,” Farrell said this afternoon. “Keep in mind, he threw 100 pitches today, but it was at a pace where he took some time in between pitches. I don’t think he overworked over overtaxed himself physically."

Matsuzaka approached the Red Sox coaching staff two days ago and requested the extended bullpen session, a part of his normal routine while playing in Japan.

"I was trying to stick to what I am used to in Japan," Matsuzaka said through a translator. "I pitched more today, longer, but nothing out of the ordinary."

“While we have talked about these changes or these differences that may emerge, I don’t think they’ll be on a regular basis,” Farrell said. “He felt like it was time for him to stretch out a little bit and be able work on the assortment of pitches that he does have, and that’s what was afforded here today.”

Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek caught the entire bullpen.

“I think it shows great feel of all of his pitches,” Varitek said. “He’s at a point where he needs to extend what he needs to do, and if that’s the point, we’ll accommodate him.”

Farrell said that allowing Matsuzaka to extend today’s workout gave the team more of a chance to understand his routine and delivery.

“What continues to emerge here is the way he goes about his work and the precision,” Farrell said. “For instance, you see him work out of the stretch, he’ll hold the ball, he’ll look back at second base as if there’s a runner, that he’s controlling the running game. So he’s already thinking about the game situation and incorporating that mindset in his bullpen work.”

Farrell pointed out that the team has not approached hard pitch counts for Matsuzaka, with a number of adjustments in coming to the majors, most significantly the five-day rotation. Matsuzaka pitched in a seven-day rotation in Japan.

“That’s a feel that he’ll gain here in spring training,” Farrell said.

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein discusses Matsuzaka’s bullpen session as well.

“It wasn’t something he just dropped on us,” said Epstein. “That bullpen today was the product of a lot of discourse and part of his very well-thought-out structured routine. And it was impressive.

"I think probably the thing that caught my attention the most was, he’s in there 80-90 pitches deep, and he’s still going from the stretch, still checking runners, still taking it like a real game situation. Every single pitch had a purpose. You almost wanted to videotape it and show it to our young guys in minor league camp, about how to get the most out of your practice, and he certainly does.”

As for pitchers not named Matsuzaka, Farrell pointed out Josh Beckett’s strength in keeping the fastball down in the zone -- something they are specifically working with him on.

As for Jonathan Papelbon switching roles from the bullpen to the starting rotation, Varitek said he isn’t worried about any loss of intensity.

“I don’t see it changing, but he will have to be more patient,” Varitek said.

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