Terry Francona received good news today from Fort Myers, where Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched three innings in a Gulf Coast League game against Tampa Bay minor leaguers. Matsuzaka threw 37 pitches, recording four strikeouts and allowing one hit in a 2-0 Red Sox win. Matsuzaka faced 11 batters.
“Everything was pretty good,” Francona said. “Good breaking ball. He commanded his fastball and stayed down. He had good changeups. Generally, really positive.”
Here is some Matsuzaka video, courtesy of NBC2 Sports in Fort Myers.
Matsuzaka is en route to Boston and is scheduled to report to Fenway Park tomorrow. Matsuzaka’s next outing will take place on Saturday for Double-A Portland against New Hampshire.
“He’s done a phenomenal job getting [himself] back at full strength, being Daisuke,” Francona said. “He’s done very well. I think we probably needed to do this. Getting there is what’s important, and I think we’ve done that.”
Francona said the earliest Matsuzaka could return to the big club is Sept. 8. Francona cautioned that Matsuzaka would not be stretched out to pitch deep into a game, but said that given the additional arms present after Sept. 1 callups, the team would be in better shape to take on shorter starts. Pawtucket and Portland end their seasons on Sept. 7. Pawtucket has been eliminated from postseason play.
“The last two months have gone, in my opinion, as good as possibly expected,” Francona said. “He’s not only met but exceeded every milestone that’s been put in front of him.”
* The Red Sox play the White Sox tonight for the first time this season. After last night’s loss to the Yankees, the coaching staff stayed at Fenway until 2 a.m. for their homework on Chicago.
* Paul Byrd will start for Pawtucket tonight.
* Francona said the Sox will call up at least one catcher (George Kottaras), one pitcher, one infielder, and one outfielder on Sept. 1. More promotions are expected.