September 16, 2009

Matsuzaka Shines In Return To Mound

After being booed off the mound in mid-June, Daisuke Matsuzaka was sent to Fort Myers for what amounted to a full spring training. There were serious doubts if he would pitch again for the Red Sox in 2009.
I've never had to take time in the middle of a season to try and get myself back to pitching the way I can and trying to build up strength. Even though I made it back and I got the win, when I was actually doing my training during those months, I was not always sure if I could ever get back though I tried my best to believe that one day I would come back.

But more than anything, I think that the pitcher you saw [last night] was clearly different from the pitcher you saw at the beginning of the season. I think the time that I spent over the past three months was definitely worthwhile. ...

On the road back, I've been a burden on my teammates more than anything and I feel that I owe them. There's not much left in the season, but in the limited time, in the limited opportunity that I do have, I want to show my appreciation to my teammates and to the fans by contributing in a positive way.
So far, so good. It was a fabulous return. Now -- can he do it again on Sunday against the Orioles?

SoSHer Sprowl (with p/fx data):
Matsuzaka was mostly a fastball pitcher today, and its movement was all over the map. ... the clusters are so diffuse that I can't tell how much of that is intended movement and how much of it is just plain wild. ...

But under pressure, DiceK all of a sudden can command his fastball. I have no idea what turns the switch from complete scattershot to dart thrower. Losing velocity, oddly enough, seems to help ...

Matsuzaka's most effective pitch was the cutter, which generated plenty of feeble fly balls from lunging batters: 6 balls in play for outs. The slurve wasn't the out pitch of 2008, producing no swinging strikes. The offspeed pitches were mostly thrown out of the zone: 8 slurves, 4 changeups and 1 slow curve. Another pattern was the conspicuous avoidance of the low strike zone: most pitches were belt-high or above. ...

But most of all: he still leaves me wondering how a pitcher throwing 90-92 with fastball command that disappears for innings at a time can produce such delightful results. My best guess is that if even the pitcher doesn't know how his fastball will move, the batter hasn't a snowflake's chance in hell.
Dice was also throwing with a lower arm angle.

Terry Francona:
I thought he was terrific. He stayed in his delivery the entire night. It looked like he had some life on his fastball without a lot of effort. He threw a real good cutter. He had three walks and two of them, he had guys 0-2. It's a huge short in the arm for us.
In the last start, I left amidst some boos. So to be able to come back and experience that today was something very special as a ballplayer. If I could say one thing, I didn't want to leave in the middle of an inning, but I'm very grateful for the fans' response today.
When NESN came back from commercial in the top of the second, Matsuzaka was throwing some warm-up pitches from the grass behind the mound.
It's something that I used to do in Japan. During my rehab assignments in the minors, that's when I started it back up. I think it's just another way that helps me get warmed up. The temperature is only going to go down from here on out, so I think I'm just going to try to incorporate that as part of my warm-up.
Jason Varitek:
Don't ask me. That's new. Three from back there, five on the rubber. He got his eight. That was a surprise.
John Farrell:
That's a little bit different. Daisuke is Daisuke for a number of reasons. To have that freedom to do some things, it's well within the rules. And if he chooses to do that, there's nothing to say. Most pitchers like to stretch it out a little bit. Beckett stands in front of the rubber and throws two or three. [Matsuzaka] chooses to stand behind it.
Kevin Youkilis missed last night's game with back spams. He first thought he had a kidney stone. His status for tonight is unclear. ... Victor Martinez is in Cleveland because of a family matter and is expected back on Thursday. ... Jacoby Ellsbury had two singles in his 53rd multi-hit game of the season -- tops on the Sox.

David Ortiz set a major league record last night, with his 270th home run hit as a designated hitter.
Dude              Dongs
David Ortiz 270
Frank Thomas 269
Edgar Martinez 243
Harold Baines 236
Don Baylor 219
Jose Canseco 208
Chili Davis 200
When Ortiz goes deep, the Red Sox are 21-2. ... Pitchers for the weekend series against the Orioles: Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and Matsuzaka. ... Starters ERA in the current six-game winning streak: 0.95 ERA.

The Red Sox will begin and end the 2010 season at home against the Yankees -- maybe. ... Speaking of the MFY, Posada is not called Dumbo only because of his ears.

1 comment:

laura k said...

What a great game last night! I was so glad I got to see it - my first full game in almost 2 weeks.

I noticed when Francona came out to get Dice last night, Dice looked choked up - also as he was walking off to the ovation. I was happy for him. We'll all be holding our breath for his next start.