Sox feel betrayed by Dice-K's criticisms
Injured righty airs grievances after meeting with training staff
BOSTON -- The Red Sox were equal parts stunned and disappointed to see rehabbing right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka publicly criticize the team's training program.
Matsuzaka, in an article published in Japan on Monday, seemed to point a finger at the Red Sox for both the ineffectiveness and lack of health he has had this season.
"If I'm forced to continue to train in this environment, I may no longer be able to pitch like I did in Japan," Matsuzaka said to Japanese writer Taeko Yoshii. "The only reason why I managed to win games during the first and second years [with the Red Sox] was because I used the savings of the shoulder I built up in Japan. Since I came to the Major Leagues, I couldn't train in my own way, so now I've lost all those savings."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona and pitching coach John Farrell both spoke with Matsuzaka -- who remains in Florida on a strengthening program -- by phone after hearing about his comments.
Matsuzaka -- who likely won't rejoin the rotation until September -- came back to Boston on Friday to check in with Francona, Farrell and the medical staff. At that point, there was a meeting that lasted roughly 90 minutes.
From the Red Sox's standpoint, it was a productive meeting, in which both sides got to express their opinions about where the pitcher is at and where they will go moving forward to get him back on the mound.
That only made it more surprising for the Red Sox to read his public complaints a few days later.
"I've actually thought we've made huge strides in communicating through some of his frustrations and then maybe some of ours," said Francona. "So to hear him say that is disappointing. [It's] not disappointing that he has an opinion, because that's very welcome; disappointing that we took a meeting that was confidential, and he decided to air it publicly. Yeah, we're very disappointed."
Farrell, who has worked with Matsuzaka every step of the way since the Red Sox made a $103.1 million investment in the righty in December 2006, seemed even more disappointed at the turn of events.
|"I don't know that we felt like there was an issue there. I still don't think there is. I think there were some things said out of frustration that was poor judgment on his part."|
|-- Manager Terry Francona|
The other thing Farrell wanted to make clear is that the Red Sox have tried to work with Matsuzaka on the best approach. In his mind, they've never forced anything down the pitcher's throat.
"They certainly were not mandated. That is to be clearly stated," said Farrell. "Changes that he has gone through have not been mandated. Now, as a result of two years of pitching here, the challenges that he did face, there was a lot of communication back and forth -- educating and learning and living, the new environment and pitching in the States here, along with very much different lineups, a different strike zone, a different intensity to every pitch that he threw that has a greater taxing effect on the shoulder.
"And as a result, over time, there's been a decrease in shoulder strength. Now, that can't be attributed to any one thing. There's a lot of contributing factors here."
Matsuzaka's biggest complaints have centered on being confined to a pitch count and being restricted in how much he can throw between starts.
The Red Sox think that Matsuzaka's shoulder would have held up better this year if his overall conditioning was better.
"The fact remains, though, that while there's been a lot of freedom provided, particularly in the offseason in preparation for Spring Training, there falls a lot of accountability on the individual pitcher," said Farrell. "Much like [Josh] Beckett, [Jon] Lester, [Tim] Wakefield and any other starter that we have here, there's a program that's outlined that takes into account the specific needs of the individual.
"You can't just look at the shoulder. Certainly, that is a main point for our strength and shoulder program. But when the overall body is not in the top condition that it needs to be to support that, there has to be some responsibility taken, not just finger-pointing. And I strongly believe that.
"The shoulder program is one thing. The amount of throwing and his training routine or what is common in Japan as we've come to know from Daisuke, is a high volume of throwing to get the shoulder in shape. We are not opposed to what would be considered a high volume of throwing, provided everything is in shape to support it. When any pitcher falls into what we would call a 'red category,' we've got to take a time out and say there are some strengthening issues that need to be addressed."
|"As these situations have arisen, there have been many sit-down meetings where thoughts have been exchanged back and forth. So the disappointment comes from basically airing his laundry."|
|-- Pitching coach John Farrell|
"Last year, giving him the freedom to come into Spring Training, we had to shut [him] down at the end of May," Farrell said. "This year, the same freedom was provided during the offseason, and yet he had a shortened offseason because of the [Classic]. This is not to point the finger at the [Classic].
"But because we had six total players at the [Classic], all but one reported to Spring Training to give us an idea of where they stood conditioning wise, what was needed as our Opening Day approached. That freedom was provided, and reasonably so. We didn't feel like, for Dice-K to come back to the States for five to seven days and then have to report back to Team Japan, that was a lot of unnecessary travel.
"So we did assign someone to monitor the work. If that is perceived as being restrictive, we have a responsibility for the size of investment that is in him, and it's out of care and monitoring, not out of restriction and holding him back in any way. It's unfortunate that he feels that way."
The Red Sox are hopeful Matsuzaka will return to their rotation at some point in September. Perhaps, by that time, the sides will be more on the same page.
"We came out of that meeting feeling very good and actually just visited with him two days ago and felt like everybody was on board with exactly what we were doing -- himself included," Francona said. "I don't know that we felt like there was an issue there. I still don't think there is. I think there were some things said out of frustration that was poor judgment on his part."
The Red Sox made a blind bid of $51.1 million to win the rights to Matsuzaka and then signed the pitcher to a six-year, $52 million contract. Matsuzaka is signed through the end of the 2012 season.
"We have been very upfront with him that as long as his shoulder can handle the amount of throwing that he wants to do, he is more than welcome to do that," said Francona. "But not when his shoulder cannot handle that. And that's just, I think, common sense.
"In the past, Dice has somewhat been his own coach, and we understand that. There's been some cultural differences. We've actually tried to explain to him also that for [$103.1 million], if he were to go out there and do it his own way with no coach and then had a difficult time and then [principal owner] Mr. [John W.] Henry came down and said to me or John Farrell, 'What's going on?' and we said, 'I don't know, we just let Dice do it his own way,' that wouldn't be a very good answer."
The next time Matsuzaka has complaints about the program the team outlines for him, the Red Sox are hopeful he will air them in a more professional fashion.
"And as these situations have arisen, there have been many sit-down meetings where thoughts have been exchanged back and forth," Farrell said. "So the disappointment comes from basically airing his laundry [in public]."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.