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03/17/10 1:35 PM ET

Dice-K throws first batting-practice session

Right-hander slated to play in Minor League game Sunday

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After being slowed by back and neck ailments, right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka threw batting practice for the first time this spring on Wednesday.

On the back field at City of Palms Park, Matsuzaka threw 40 batting-practice pitches plus an additional 10 pitches with a batter standing in the box but not swinging. Angel Sanchez, Aaron Bates and Tug Hulett hit off the righty.

Matsuzaka was happy with his first outing.

"I think I had good life on my fastball," he said. "[I] also felt that I had good break and good command of my breaking balls, although there's some work to be done there. I think if there's one thing since it was my first time facing live batters, I didn't pitch inside. But I think that's something that I'm going to work on as I start throwing in games."

Matsuzaka was able to throw all his pitches for strikes.

"I think it came [together] in the second half of my session, especially when I started throwing from the stretch -- that was when I had really good command of the ball," Matsuzaka said.

Matsuzaka had no restrictions in his batting-practice session related to the back or neck problems.

The Red Sox have a scheduled off-day Thursday, and after being evaluated Friday morning, Matsuzaka is expected to throw a bullpen session, followed by a Minor League game Sunday.

"We don't want to skip any steps along the way here," said pitching coach John Farrell. "We want to be sure he has ample time and we provide ample time to build a foundation that's going to endure an entire season."

Matsuzaka spent a total of 107 games on the disabled list last season with a mild right shoulder strain.

His outing Wednesday is a sign of progress, Farrell said.

"Every progressive step is a positive one, one that you can begin to build upon -- increase pitches, increase innings," Farrell said. "So today was an important one to at least see a hitter in there, for him to being to get feedback on how his pitches are acting and to see a batter standing in the box."

Matsuzaka may have to return to Boston at some point for personal reasons, but Farrell said that should not impact the pitcher's schedule.

"Based on the schedule, it's not going to have a negative impact on how we plan things out," Farrell said. "But any further comment on that will come from Daisuke. That's a personal matter. We're not going to speak about that."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.