02/25/09 12:35 PM EST
Red Sox monitoring Dice-K from afar
Boston righty preparing for World Baseball Classic in Japan
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Because of travel logistics, Boston decided it would make more sense for Matsuzaka to start Spring Training in Japan and report to Fort Myers once the Classic is over. The arrangement has created a unique dynamic, where the Red Sox keep tabs on one of their star pitchers through conversations and e-mails.
Matsuzaka made his first exhibition start of the spring on Tuesday in an exhibition against Team Australia. The game was played in Osaka, Japan, with Matsuzaka giving up five hits and two runs over 1 2/3 innings.
"He threw 38 pitches," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We wanted to keep him to 40, so he was pretty much on target. He will throw again, I guess, Saturday."
Ideally, Boston would be able to monitor Matsuzaka up close. But Francona said that everyone is making the best out of the unique situation.
"It is [unique], but when you think about it, it makes sense," Francona said. "You'd certainly rather have your team here than not here. But I don't know that it made a lot of sense to ask him to do it. We've been getting good updates. We're OK. The mound is the same distance here that it is there. I think he'll be fine."
The Red Sox have been relying on Takanori Maeda, their Japanese personal trainer and massage therapist, to keep them up to date on Matsuzaka's progress.
"Maeda is over there. Denny [Tomori] was over there. He sends some stuff to [interpreter] Masa [Hoshino], then Masa will interpret it and put it on an e-mail," Francona said. "Then Masa will talk to [Matsuzaka] every couple of days."
Short hops: After learning that reliever Javier Lopez will be pitching in the Classic, Francona and pitching coach John Farrell called Puerto Rico manager Jose Oquendo to make sure the lefty specialist doesn't get overused. Francona came away very pleased with the conversation, and he appreciated the respect Oquendo has for the situation. ... Catcher Jason Varitek will see his first action of Spring Training on Thursday, when he works with Jon Lester for the 1:05 p.m. ET home game against the Pirates. ... Rocco Baldelli will be the designated hitter in Friday's game against his former team, the Rays, in Port Charlotte, Fla.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.