Culture clash

Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated has an in-depth look this week at Red Sox hurler Daisuke Matsuzaka, a signing that he says might open up old myths about pampering pitchers in baseball’s American landscape.

Matsuzaka represents a clash of cultures that goes well beyond the standard laundry list of adjustments involving food, language, customs and entertainment. (Good luck explaining sports talk radio to him after the Sox blow a game late to the Yanks.) What happens when a pitcher from the East, this good at this age, meets Western baseball philosophy? What happens when he encounters the pitch-count clicker, that all-powerful totem worshiped by American managers and coaches? What does manager Terry Francona do when Matsuzaka has thrown 120 pitches into the eighth inning? How much do the Red Sox Americanize the pitcher?

Matsuzaka pitches today against the Pirates (1 p.m., ESPN) in spring training action.

Also, despite Johnny Damon’s claim that they’re the “best,” Verducci explains just why the Yankees will not win the World Series again in 2007. His picks for the Fall Classic: the Dodgers and Angels in a SoCal showdown.