Notes: Matsuzaka slated for debut
Right-hander to face Boston College in split-squad game
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In a Spring Training debut unlike any other in club history, Daisuke Matsuzaka threw off a mound for the first time in a Red Sox uniform Sunday. He was greeted by screaming young fans, along with 200 reporters and photographers following his every move.
Sunday's workout was the first of several designed to get him ready for his first start, scheduled for March 2 against Boston College.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona told reporters Sunday that "it's probably accurate" that Matsuzaka will make his Spring Training debut in the second of two split-squad games that day. The Boston College contest is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. ET at City of Palms Park. If things go as planned, his next likely appearance would be on three days' rest on March 6 against the Marlins in Jupiter, Fla.
The club also announced that Matsuzaka is scheduled to throw his first batting practice session on Saturday, giving him a full week before he pitches in a game.
Following a three-minute warmup to a standing Jason Varitek, Matsuzaka threw 40 pitches, split evenly between the windup and the stretch. His final two pitches to Varitek were pitchouts and the session was finished after approximately seven minutes.
"It's my first time to practice and do the workout in my uniform with a really good level of intensiveness and nervousness," Matsuzaka said through translator Sachiyo Sekiguchi. "I'm a little tired, but overall I had a good time."
"[It's] way too early for any assessments or anything," Varitek said. "You don't know where [he's] at physically. He could be ready to throw a 200- or 300-pitch bullpen right now, but they have the governor on him a little bit to make sure he gets through in the same time everybody else is. It was about as much basic of a bullpen as we possibly could have done."
Still, it wasn't too early in camp for Matsuzaka to begin to appreciate the value of working with Varitek.
"Even with that limited number of pitches, he pointed out some improvements I could make, which I really appreciated, and, also, I realize how carefully he is catching the balls," Matsuzaka said. "And I also asked him please continue to ask me how I can improve my pitching."
"For me, it's not basic," the catcher added. "I see his release point. I see when he reared back a little bit more and didn't stay in line, those types of things, just little information I can gather as we go along."
"We are at the very beginning, so, I think, from this point on, we will gradually bring up the level," Matsuzaka said. "Today, I pitched maybe at the level of 60 or 70 percent. For the beginning, I think it was good. Of course, it was a different way of approaching, but overall I think it worked out fine."
In an initiation of sorts to his first Spring Training with a Major League team, Varitek had Matsuzaka carry out his equipment bag while Varitek responded in kind by agreeing to carry the right-hander's spikes.
"Maybe in my rookie year in Japan, maybe I carried someone else's catcher's bags, but I don't remember how many times," Matsuzaka said. "'Tek told me [Jonathan Papelbon] also carried his bag one time, so I said, 'Sure. I can do multiple times, as you wish.'"
A second language: Curt Schilling, who spent time in the offseason learning Japanese, introduced himself to Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima during warmups. Asked how Schilling's Japanese is coming along, Matsuzaka, without the need of an interpreter, answered in English, "very good."
First-day frenzy: Some 912 fans turned out on the first day of workouts, according to Red Sox security at the Player Development Complex.
"They're always here, but I don't rate my day by that," Francona said. "If we win, they'll keep showing up. We always get a great following, and I'm sure the players enjoy it. Nobody cursed at me today, so that's a good day."
With reporters and cameramen two to three rows deep in some places along the outfield warning track, pitchers and catchers began to stretch just after 9:30 a.m., a routine especially necessary with temperatures in the low 50s and chilly winds gusting all morning up to 30 mph.
Tavarez taking time: Following his ankle injury at the Caribbean World Series and now a sore throat, reliever Julian Tavarez is not being rushed into throwing to start camp.
"He's got a little bit of knot still and he's battling his throat," Francona said. "When they give us the go-ahead, we'll do it. He's out here and he's not going to fall behind. They're trying not to have him impact that ankle [and] foot until he's ready to do it."
Second-hand news: Francona was not watching as his five projected starters and Okajima threw off a mound for the first time.
"Part of that is by design," Francona said. "I love watching guys throw. You go back there and they try to throw too hard, and that's really not what you want today. And talking to [pitching coach] John [Farrell], he had to back a couple guys off because he thought they were throwing a little firm."
Fast and furious: The Red Sox's Spring Training schedule just got busier with another "B" squad game added to the schedule on March 5 at Hammond Stadium against the Twins at 10 a.m. ET. Boston will play Minnesota twice that day at the Lee County Sports Complex. The Red Sox will now be playing split-squad games on March 1, 2, 5 and 8.
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.