Matsuzaka shows his stuff
Matsuzaka Mania picked up a little more steam this morning in Ft. Myers, as the Dice Man took the mound and threw live batting practice for the first time this camp.
Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 44 pitches, about the same as the other starters we watched, and dazzled onlookers with a variety of pitches. He seemed to have very good bite on his breaking stuff, and blew a couple of fastballs by hitters Luis Jiminez and Jacoby Ellsbury. Bobby Scales and Kevin Cash were the other hitters to face Matsuzaka.
"He threw a slider on his first pitch," said Ellsbury. "I don't swing and miss a lot, but I missed by about six inches. And I knew it was coming."
Ellsbury said Matsuzaka's mastery of six (or more) pitches will keep hitters off balance, and the long pause at the top of his wind-up will make the new Sox pitcher tough to hit.
"It's a little bit slower," said Ellsbury of the windup, "but at the same time it's smooth."
As for the variety of pitches, Ellsbury did not see the mythical gyroball today. "No gyro," said Ellsbury. "I asked about it but he didn't throw one."
Jason Varitek caught the session. "You'll see (Varitek) catch him a lot," said manager Terry Francona, "to build and keep that relationship."
Matsuzaka, pitching after Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling, drew an ovation from the fans on hand after his session was over.
Francona was back on the field after missing yesterday's workouts with a fever (said to be above 100 degrees.) Francona said he felt "fine" and joked with the players and front office members behind the cage during the BP sessions.
At one point, as Tim Wakefield tried to run past the huge gathering of photographers gathered to watch Matsuzaka. "Stop during his windup and you'll get in the (picture)," yelled Francona.