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Shaky start for Matsuzaka

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  February 25, 2009 12:11 PM

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If Japan is to repeat as World Baseball Classic champions, they'll need Daisuke Matsuzaka to be sharper than he was in today's tuneup.

Matsuzaka, an 18-game winner for the Red Sox last season and the Most Valuable Player of the inaugural WBC in 2006, allowed five hits and two runs in 1 2/3 innings, but Japan rallied to defeat Australia, 11-2, in an exhibition game.

"There were good points and bad points," Matsuzaka said. "I'll work hard to get ready for the actual games."

Matsuzaka started out strong, striking out three of the five batters he faced in the first inning. But he allowed three hits, including a two-run double, in the second inning before he was relieved.

Australia is managed by Jon Deeble, a Pacific Rim scout for the Red Sox. When asked about Matsuzaka, he said, "It is too early in the season to evaluate him with this one outing, but his nasty slider [was] almost unhittable."

(Click here to read about a little bit of history between Matsuzaka and Deeble.)

Japan will begin the defense of its title when the tournament begins on March 5 at the Tokyo Dome. The WBC ffinal is scheduled for March 23 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Daigo Fujiwara of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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