Notes: Okajima makes debut
Left-hander breezes through perfect inning against Jays
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With the day filled with buzz for Daisuke Matsuzaka's impending debut, another pitcher from Japan quietly made his first appearance in a Boston uniform.
Though there was some interest in Hideki Okajima's first Grapefruit League inning, it's safe to say that the reliever was safely under the radar of Matsuzaka-mania.
While Matsuzaka was on deck for Friday's nightcap against Boston College, Okajima breezed through a perfect inning against the Blue Jays during the matinee.
Overshadowed by Matsuzaka? No problem, said Okajima, who came up with a perfect one-liner.
"I am willing to be a hero in the dark," Okajima said through his interpreter.
The Red Sox did not sign Okajima so that he could be Matsuzaka's travel companion. They did so because they think he can be an important cog in their bullpen.
Okajima, who signed with the Red Sox for two years plus an option for 2009 on Nov. 30, offered a glimpse of what he might add, getting two of his outs on curveballs and the third on a fastball.
"I was very nervous and very excited," said Okajima. "Until I got one batter out, my nervousness continued. After I got one more out, I felt better."
The Red Sox weren't reading anything into it either way.
"[It was a] veteran left-hander getting his first inning of Spring Training," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He spun a couple of breaking balls, one he left up, a couple he threw OK to left-handers. It's an inning getting back acclimated to competition, just like everybody else."
The 30-year-old Okajima is a veteran of 439 games in Japanese professional baseball, going 34-32 with a 3.36 ERA.
Manny back at it: Sox slugger Manny Ramirez made his Spring Training debut, fouling out to the catcher and drawing a walk in two plate appearances.
But in general, Ramirez did not look like a man who reported to camp six days after the other position players.
The first swing Ramirez took was a certified rip. Instead of putting it into the seats, Ramirez fouled it straight back.
"I don't know how a guy can come out of winter and, first at-bat, have your head be so still," said Francona. "I just don't know how you do it. I'm glad he's with us because he's special. Even David [Ortiz] is laughing. He says, 'I don't know how the guy does it.'"
Snyder out of options: The Red Sox will take a long, hard look at right-hander Kyle Snyder this spring. The swingman is in competition for the lone bullpen spot that is up for grabs. Snyder is out of options, meaning there'd be a good chance the Red Sox would lose him on waivers if he doesn't make the team.
The righty got the start in Friday's game against the Blue Jays and looked strong, striking out four over two innings.
Though Snyder's overall numbers weren't impressive after the Red Sox claimed him off waivers last June, the team saw glimpses of what they think he can become.
"We can only carry 25 [players] but we really like him," said Francona. "And he's far enough removed from surgery now. This might be his first spring in a long time where there hasn't been arm issues. Again, we want to get a real good look at him while he's healthy, because you don't ever want to lose a pitcher that can pitch."
Snyder knows full-well what his situation is.
"I'm prepared to fill whatever role this organization sees fit with respect to myself," said Snyder. "I'm here to help the ballclub however I can. I'm here to compete for a job, the one job that we have. I understand the potential for myself at the end of this Spring Training and there's a very good chance I could be somewhere else. I'm here preparing for the 2007 season and I hope to be able to contribute to this organization."
Snyder is battling Manny Delcarmen, Craig Hansen, Devern Hansack and others for the final roster sot.
Hansen makes progress, Timlin still on hold: In the daily update of ailing backs, right-hander Craig Hansen was cleared to throw a side session. However, Mike Timlin, who had an oblique spasm on Sunday, is still waiting.
"Until he's completely pain-free, we're not letting him go on the mound," said Francona. "I think he thinks he can pitch. Again, we've been through it so many times, we just don't want something bad to happen."
Coming up: Tim Wakefield and Jonathan Papelbon, both of whom will start the season in the rotation, will share the pitching load in Saturday afternoon's game against the Phillies. Both pitchers will go two innings. The Phillies counter with right-hander Adam Eaton. First pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m. ET at City of Palms Park.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.