Monday, March 21, 2011

More tweaking for Matsuzaka

Opening Day is getting closer and closer every day, and things are starting to solidify for the already-pretty-solid Sox. We've got a relatively set lineup (though Tito is hesitant to say as much), and an eviable rotation (Lester, Lackey, Buchholz, Beckett, and Matsuzaka) - the only thing in any state of flux seems to be the bullpen, but that's a topic for another day.

Today, I would like to discuss a man who is a bonafide legend not just in his hometown (most major-leaguers are) but all across his nation. Yes, this is going to be a post about Daisuke Matsuzaka, the pride of Tokyo. [I'll try to make it easier to read than he is to watch.] We'll skip over the usual hyperbole about his enigma status and jump right into the reason for this post: Sox pitching coach Curt Young thinks he may have a solution.

So what is this "solution?" Is it voodoo? Magic? Icy-Hot? According to Young (via the Boston Globe online), the secret might just be shuffling Matsuzaka's off-day workouts. In MLB, starting pitchers are on a five-man rotation, meaning they usually get four days off between starts. Matsuzaka operated with a six-man rotation back in Japan, meaning that he did his long-toss and bullpen sessions on the same day. [This seems strange at first: why do everything on one day if you have extra time? The theory seems to be that you can do a more intense workout because you have the extra day to recover.]

Since coming to the Red Sox in 2007, Matsuzaka has been doing his workouts his way, and Young thinks switching things up, with long-toss and bullpen on the second and third day after his start, respectively, could make a positive difference.

On behalf of Red Sox Nation, I have one thought to sum up the whole Matsuzaka predicament: whatever the change is, JUST DO IT [apologies to Nike]. Hopefully this change will cure him of that horrible tendency to nibble the corners instead of challenging hitters, as well as allowing him to pitch well past the fifth inning - both skills that have thus far mostly eluded Matsuzaka in Boston.

For me [and I'm guessing for many of you] the most frustrating thing about Daisuke is that he HAS been the dominating guy we thought we were getting... for Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, where he went 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA and was awarded the WBC MVP Award. Great. And as I'm sure you all remember, he played in only 12 games for the red Sox that season, going 4-6 with an ERA well over 5.

Hopefully this is the year that we'll finally see that guy playing in a Red Sox uniform. Will we see the mythical gyroball? Probably not, but I'll settle for a quality season from a player who certainly has the talent.

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