Theo lays down the law on Dice-K

If Daisuke Matsuzaka didn’t get the message from the Red Sox when he was bumped out of the rotation for the Division Series, Theo Epstein repeated it loud and clear on Monday:

They expect him to show up in shape next season.

“We want him to have a really productive offseason and come into camp in the best possible shape,” Epstein said. “We can notice right away that he’s had a strong offseason of workouts. And then also with his shoulder. That he does the shoulder program to an extent that he’s ready to go out and throw 200-plus innings. Those are things he didn’t accomplish last year.

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“The time to do it is throughout the winter. That’s been clearly communicated. There will be follow-up. There are strong expectations that he shows up in February in fantastic shape on Day 1 of spring training next year. I see it as a necessity, not really an option.”

Given the issues the Red Sox have had with Matsuzaka and the utter disaster that Kei Igawa was for the Yankees, it will be interesting to see to what degree either team chases the next big free agent out of Japan, Yu Darvish.

Darvish is not expected to be posted until after the 2010 season, if then.