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Francona Announces The Return Of Matsuzaka

This 2009 season turned out to be a disaster for Boston’s Japanese right-hander Daisuake Matsuzaka.  But, even with a horrendous 1-5 record and 8.23 ERA, Dice-K’s season isn’t beyond salvaging at this point.  The 28-year-old made his last rehab start for Class-A Salem on Wednesday and is set to join the Red Sox rotation Tuesday, taking Paul Byrd’s spot in the starting five.

Your guess is just as good as mine as for what Terry Francona and the Boston Red Sox eventually get from Dice-K.  He’s a pain to watch on the mound.  He walks a lot of batters. He finds himself in too many full-counts.  And usually ends the inning, or his outing, with the bases loaded.  But his talents are undeniable.  He has a vast repertoire of pitches, all of which, can be used to strike a batter.  For all the anguish he puts fans through, Matsuzaka has come through in the clutch. In the quarterfinal of the 1998 Summer Koshien (Amateur Baseball Championship), Matsuzaka threw 250 pitches in 17 innings to led his team to a win after he pitched 148 pitches the previous day.  He was a warrior.  In 2008, he was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA and in his seven playoff starts for Boston in 2007 and 2008, Dice-K is 3-1 with Boston winning six of those seven outings.  Not bad for a person who was run out of town earlier this year. 

But the facts are a little misleading.  He was terrible this season and there is no denying that. Its probably because he was stretched out too much, a little too early, due to the World Baseball Classic. Maybe its because John Farrell and Terry Francona were trying to “Americanize” his routines and pitching style.  

But throw it all out the window.

The main question that needs to be answered, is if he can be a warrior in the Major Leagues this year, for the Boston Red Sox in September and October?

The Red Sox have Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and struggling Josh Beckett to rely upon for pitching.  They have a dynamic bullpen but the relievers cannot pitch five or four innings each day or in the playoffs.  That’s why the Red Sox need someone like Dice-K to step up and to take charge. Matsuzaka will take on the AL West leading Angels on Tuesday and it will be a great test for Dice-K and great evaluation for Theo Epstein and the Red Sox brass.  There are only 23 games left in the season for Boston and with a two-team race looking to head into the final weekend of the season, the Red Sox are in a fight for the playoff lives.  

And Dice-K could either be the punch that knocks them out of playoffs or be the knock out punch that propels them into it.  That’s one scary thought.   

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