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Masterson looms as Plan A in case Dice-K is out

Posted by Gordon Edes, Globe Staff  May 29, 2008 03:12 PM

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The Sox have altered Pawtucket's pitching rotation, with Justin Masterson scheduled to make his PawSox debut tonight in McCoy Stadium against the Scranton Yankees. Originally, Masterson was scheduled to pitch Saturday, after David Pauley and Clay Buchholz, but they have both been pushed back, with Masterson getting the ball tonight.

That would put Masterson in line to pitch Tuesday at Fenway Park against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, which is when the Sox would need another starter in case Daisuke Matsuzaka is unavailable. Matsuzaka is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Friday for what the club originally described as "shoulder fatigue." Given how cautiously the Sox are with their pitchers, it seems a virtual certainty that Matsuzaka misses at least one start; it remains to be seen whether the injury warrants a trip to the disabled list.

Masterson has not pitched since holding the Royals to 3 hits and a run in 6 1/3 innings on May 20 in Boston for his first big-league win. In his big-league debut, April 24 against the Angels, Masterson gave up 2 hits and a run in 6 innings but was not involved in the decision. Masterson, who started the season with Double-A Portland, was optioned to Pawtucket after the Royals game but was skipped a turn to give him a breather.

If Matsuzaka goes on the DL, the most plausible scenario would be to add another bat for this weekend's series against the Baltimore Orioles. The hottest PawSox hitter is Jeff Bailey, who hit a home run off Detroit's Nate Robertson during a three-game callup last July. The right-handed-hitting Bailey comes into tonight's game with big numbers in May: .333 average, 11 home runs and 30 RBIs.

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