Farrell, Sox content with Dice-K

Daisuke Matsuzaka hadn’t pitched in a game in eight days when he made his Sox spring debut today, so the results weren’t necessarily the priority. Still, Matsuzaka gave them — and some pitch efficiency, too.

“Seventy-five pitches through five innings is ideally what we were hoping to get through today,” said pitching coach John Farrell after the Sox’ 4-3 loss in 10 innings to the Atlanta Braves.

And so they did. Matsuzaka allowed two runs (one earned) on three walks and just one hit while striking out two.

“I surprised myself,” Matsuzaka said with a mischievous grin, suggesting he is growing tired of the constant questions about his pitch efficiency. “The Red Sox keep reminding me that I was a little bit ahead of schedule, but on the other hand, getting ready for the WBC put me ahead [of everyone else]. I’d like to take that in a positive way.”

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There wasn’t much else to report from the clubhouse, where the Sox were eager to depart after two long road trips in two days. Farrell made repeated note of Matsuzaka’s willingness/ability to rely on his two-seam fastball, a pitch designed to quick outs and conserve pitches.

Matsuzaka also made a point of noting that he was working on his “movement,” suggesting he is more focused on, as Farrell said, “pitching to contact.”

Whatever the objective, Matsuzaka has just one pre-season game remaining — against the Mets next Saturday in New York. After that, he’ll take the mound for real on April 9 against Tampa Bay, at which point the Red Sox will start to learn what he can provide them in 2009.

The Sox are now 17-12 with three Grapefruit League games remaining, a record that would officially put them “on the bubble” if they were an NCAA tournament team.