In a radio interview with sports radio WEEI's "Dale and Holley Show" today (listen to it here), Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell said the critical comments recently made by Daisuke Matsuzaka regarding the Red Sox throwing program are "disappointing" and that the club has always had Matsuzaka's best interests in mind.
"We have the utmost respect for the baseball norms and cultures that the Japanese baseball league has," Farrell said. "We not only respect them but we acknowledged them at the time of signing Daisuke. When he came over, no changes were recommended. No changes were mandated by any means. The adjustments in throwing have been in response to the challenges that Daisuke's faced here.
"I think we look back at '07, and let's face it, he's been a very successful pitcher in the two years he's been here. We know that there was a pretty substantial amount of fatigue in the second half of '07 that we had to give him a breather at the time, in large part because of the differences in travel, differences in competition, differences in strike zone, a number of the on-field challenges that he faced. So any of the adjustments that we've encountered have been in response to how he's adapted to the rigors of the schedule and the competition here.
"As we all know, he came into spring training prior to the '08 season with what we intended to be the same approach that we took in '07, but at the same time, we monitor every one of our pitchers in terms of their overall conditioning, their shoulder strength, and provide the specific needs that each guy has. In May again, he was shut down, I think in large part because he came into spring training a little bit behind other pitchers on our staff. So, whether that was a carryover effect of pitching into late October/November 1 from the year before, and a short offseason, having to crank it up like every other pitcher did, we saw some effects last year with Josh Beckett, guys that had heavy workloads in the '07 season, so the challenges that Daisuke faced are no different than any other pitcher here, and we have to use our best judgment to put pitchers in a situation where they're not only going to be productive, but where we feel they're going to be healthy, not in the short run, but in the long run as well.
"I know Daisuke's transition here, and the challenges that he's faced, he's been obviously on record now with saying that he has vast differences with the throwing program but we've got a $103 million investment in a guy that we've got to, what we feel, not only protect him, but put him in a best situation to have that success we just outlined."
More from Farrell on Matsuzaka:
- On any concerns with Matsuzaka's physical conditioning when he came into camp this past spring: "There was concern from the standpoint of the WBC. Now I want to be clear that we're not pointing our finger at the WBC as the culprit here, that needs to be documented here first and foremost, but we had six players who participated in that tournament, all but Daisuke were in spring training with us at the outset. We granted that freedom to Daisuke knowing that there would be a huge time zone difference, changes that he would face physically from a lot of travel to turn back around in a week or 10 days and go back to Japan to join Seibu for additional training or join Team Japan to prepare for the WBC. But because we thought it was in his best interest to keep some stability in that time zone to stay there, we did send a representative over to monitor Daisuke's workouts, to provide us feedback, because that was the same feedback that our other five players in the WBC were getting while they were in our camp. I think that's just prudent business.
"Again, you think about the investment we have in him, the care that we give all of our players. It was no different than what any other player in the Red Sox had gone through, so in hindsight, there might not have been the work that he needed to put in on his own time during the offseason to build the foundation that every pitcher requires to withstand the workloads that a major league starting pitcher is going to go through here in the states."
- Has any communication been lost in translation?: "For the amount of sit-down conversations, the amount of communication that we've had with Daisuke, like all of our players, to ensure that there's nothing lost in translation, even to the point of basically an open forum. This is a two-way situation. We're not dictating or mandating items directly to Daisuke. The opportunity to provide his feedback has always been allowed and welcomed. So for this to come out as it has, and we recognize there are differences, and we've worked diligently and thoroughly to try to bridge that gap, for them to come out as they have now is, in a word, disappointing."
- On strength and conditioning: "I want to be clear again that that freedom and the lengthy bullpen have been provided and allowed for as long as the strength and the test results that we put all of our pitchers through meet a minimum standard. It doesn't mean he's got to be pristine in terms of his overall shoulder condition, overall shoulder strength, but when you allow a pitcher to ramp up volume when he's in an area that is somewhat of a red flag, that's just being negligent on our part. ... We are going to have specific work plans for every pitcher, and Daisuke is no different.
- On throwing as a means of getting in shape: "Now, his theory might be that 'I'm going to get my arm in shape just by throwing.' Well we feel that there's a support structure, the rest of the body, or that needs to be, in a condition of core strength, flexibility, and endurance to support the stresses that the throwing motion or the arm is going to be put through. To us, it doesn't matter if you're from Japan, the Dominican, or the States. We feel that the human body has movements that it goes through, that you've got to support it with overall conditioning and strength in addition to throwing. But if you just take it from just a throwing standpoint, I think you're getting to the point of diminishing returns and putting your arm in jeopardy of further injury and that's what we've felt all along, that's what we've tried to educate him on, and we've gone to extreme lengths because he is that valuable, he is that talented, and he deserves that."
- On Matsuzaka's return to the Red Sox rotation: "We are hopeful that he comes back in September, because right now, the long toss program or the throwing program his is on, which is outlined week-to-week, with his input, based on how he feels with the stresses and the intensity level that is outlined in a given week. The thing that we have not done is put a target date as a marker in the near future to say this is the game that we're hoping you're back in Boston for, and being attached to the calendar, sometimes it causes the pitcher or the player to neglect how his body's feeling and what his body is telling him. So in a sense, we're not letting Daisuke completely direct this, but he is certainly included in our planning and the progression of the throwing going forward."