While the Boston Red Sox may have lost the annual Mayor’s Cup in Fort Meyers, and Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was looking for a call from President Obama, the Sox were more than content with the performance of their number five starter, Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Dice-K gave up an early run on Saturday to the Twins, but then shut them down for his final five innings. In his last three spring starts, Matsuzaka has a 1.62 ERA, with 13 strikeouts and just four walks in 16.2 innings.
It’s a far cry from the two previous springs, when Dice-K took heat from the Sox for showing up out of shape in 2009 and hurting his shoulder two weeks into the season, and last year starting the season on the disabled list.
This spring, on the advice of new Sox pitching coach Curt Young, Dice-K altered his between-starts routine, during which he typically threw long toss and a bullpen side session on the same day. Young thought Matsuzaka was being sapped of arm strength with that routine, and now Dice-K has given up the long toss.
The results can’t be a coincidence.
While Matsuzaka won’t admit that the change in routine has helped, he does feel much better going into the 2011 season.
“My first objective was to keep healthy…and stand at the same starting line as the other pitchers,’’ Matsuzaka told ESPNBoston’s Gordon Edes. “I’m very happy with that.’’
Sox manager Terry Francona is pretty happy with it, too.
“His stuff was sharp, and his fastball had real good finish,’’ he said.
A healthy Daisuke Matsuzaka heading into the regular season is certainly a plus, however an effective Matsuzaka will be even better, adding to a Sox rotation already considered one of the best in baseball.