Even though we've only witnessed three starts, it's been a rough spring thus far for Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Red Sox's right-hander was shelled Thursday for five runs on five hits in 3 2/3 innings. His spring ERA is 11.42.
Now, normally this wouldn't be a cause for concern, but the Japanese import has been pretty bad the past two seasons after finishing fourth in Cy Young voting back in 2008. He wasn't near as brutal last season as he was in 2009, but still, a 4.69 ERA and 1.37 WHIP aren't really what the Red Sox ponied up top dollar for back in 2007. He still walks hitters at an incredibly high rate and gets knocked around when he does find the plate. ESPN's Buster Olney noted Thursday (via Twitter ) that some rival scouts have clocked Dice-K at just 87-90 mph and wonder if he's slowly building his arm strength. But what if he's not? Hard to get guys out with that heat and breaking stuff that doesn't consistently find the plate.
For his part, Red Sox manager Terry Francona says he isn't worried (Boston Globe ).
"I think he's in great shape. I think his shoulder's strong. The ball's coming out. He's what, eight, nine innings into camp and he hasn't commanded at times. I don't think that means he's out of shape or he's disappointing," the manager said. "A couple of outings haven't been good. I don't think we're going to pack in the season after March 9th or whatever."It's hard to argue with that, and I'd do so with any truly established pitcher coming off a good season, or even a bad one following many good ones. But a horrible season followed by a mediocre-at-best season means the pitcher is under the microscope in spring training, whether the team likes it or not. If things don't start improving before the regular season you might start to hear Red Sox Nation pining for Tim Wakefield or even Andrew Miller.
Of course, it is worth mentioning that Dice-K is only being counted on as the fifth starter behind a pretty stacked top four -- Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz. He'll enter the season as the five and need only not be horrific to keep that spot.
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