PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — If you were expecting Terry Francona to throw up his hands when discussing Daisuke Matsuzaka's brutal spring, forget it.
"I think he's in great shape. I think his shoulder's strong. The ball's coming out. He's what, eight, nine innings into camp and he hasn't commanded at times. I don't think that means he's out of shape or he's disappointing," the manager said. "A couple of outings haven't been good. I don't think we're going to pack in the season after March 9th or whatever."
It's March 10 but Francona's point stands. Matsuzaka has thrown only 8.2 innings. The results have been hideous (12 hits, 11 ER, 5 BB, 4 K, 3 HR), but he still has a few starts left before the season.
But today was certainly troubling as Matsuzaka could not find the plate early and got crushed.
"He started out right off the bat pitching behind," Francona said. "He got himself in trouble where he had to throw strikes and kind of paid the price for it. One of those outings where he made it harder than it's supposed to be."
"The last couple of hitters and times in the second inning, he threw the ball just like he's supposed to. And because of that, he gets outs. But there were also times today when he made it harder than it's supposed to be."
Matsuzaka threw 63 pitches in the game and an additional 18 in the bullpen.
"It's difficult to say in words how I performed today," Matsuzaka said via an interpreter. "In practice [I pitched well] however the result did not follow through during the game. At this point the game is very important and the result is very important.
"At this point I need to think why I didn't perform as I expected. So I need more time to think about it. ... At this point I'm not too worried about it. I feel it's not great."
Matsuzaka is the No. 5 starter and expectations are low. He also has a full no-trade clause, $20 million remaining on his contract and the contractual right to refuse an assignment to the minor leagues. So the idea of trading him is difficult. There's not a team out there that would take him unless the Red Sox chowed down on a lot of salary.
Tim Wakefield is not going back into the rotation. Not at 44 and coming off a tough season. The Red Sox have made that clear. Alfredo Aceves and Andrew Miller are intriguing, but there were valid reasons both were available on the cheap. Felix Doubront is out with a sore elbow.
It's Matsuzaka. Maybe not all season, but at least for a while.
Grin and bear it. That's what the manager is doing.