. . .when Daisuke Matsuzaka is brilliant in defeat.
The box score says he was the losing pitcher on Friday night in Toledo and allowed runs for the first time in three Pawtucket starts (5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K), but make no mistake — Daisuke was sensational and I think it’s safe to say his next start will be in Boston.
“I thought his stuff was explosive,” said PawSox manager Ron Johnson. “Some of the depth on his sliders and cutters from the side angle. . .I mean those guys were swinging over them by a foot. And then he started ramping up the velocity in the last few innings. I thought to myself, this guy is feeling pretty good because that’s kind of his M.O. — if you get him through the first couple of innings then all of the sudden he gets in a groove. I thought he threw the ball really well. He was pitch-efficient, his stuff was crisp, he had swing-and-miss stuff. . . I know it was the Toledo Mud Hens and not the New York Yankees but I was impressed.”
In the first inning, Daisuke allowed 2 runs on 3 hits but didn’t really get hit hard. He allowed a couple of soft singles, and a triple when Jeff Frazier reached for an outside fastball and poked a grounder over the first base bag that rolled down the right field line.
Over his final 4 innings, Matsuzaka didn’t allow a hit while striking out 8 of the 13 batters he faced. He hit 94 on the stadium radar gun on one pitch, and most of his fastballs were around 90 miles an hour. In all, he threw 70 pitches (48 for strikes).
A member of the Japanese media told me before the game that Daisuke was enjoying his stint with Pawtucket because it allowed him to understand what players in the US go through on their way to the big leagues. But he also said that Matsuzaka felt tremendous pressure to get back to Boston because of his status in Japan where the fans take great pride in his accomplishments.
I think Daisuke’s fans can anticipate his return to a major league mound in about 5 days.
* * * * *
There are some really good baseball players that were born on May 15th.
Hall of Famer George Brett.
2006 American League MVP Justin Morneau
2003 World Series MVP Josh Beckett
And future Hall of Famer John Smoltz
Smoltz celebrated his 42nd birthday by pitching in front of about 10 people in an extended spring game in Ft. Myers as he continues to work his way toward a spot on the Red Sox pitching staff.
On Friday morning I caught an interview he did on the Dan Patrick show (you can hear it here — just scroll down the page until you see Smoltz’s picture and click “listen to this segment”).
Patrick asked Smoltz if his next start would be with Pawtucket, and John said that was probably about two starts away.
They also talked about Smoltz’s golf game, and John said that his goal after retiring from baseball is to make a cut on the PGA tour.
Patrick followed up by asking, “If you could win another World Series ring or make a PGA cut, which would you choose?”
Smoltz immediately chose the ring.
Then Patrick asked, “If you could win a PGA tour event or another World Series ring, which would you choose?”
Smoltz laughed and dodged the question.
I can’t wait for Smoltz to join the PawSox on rehab. I had the opportunity to interview him in spring training and rank him along with Tony Gwynn, Joe Torre, and Jack Nicklaus as perhaps the most enjoyable interviews I’ve ever had the opportunity to do.
(Interviewing figure skater Katarina Witt was enjoyable too, but it had nothing to do with the quality of the questions or answers).
RJ is certainly looking forward to Smoltz’s arrival. His off-season home in Tennessee is Atlanta Braves country and he figures a couple of autographed baseballs will be good bartering material for things like feed for his horses, firewood, etc. . .
* * * * * .
How ’bout the lovefest for former PawSox Bobby Scales?
He recently made his major league debut with the Cubs after 11 years and 3,303 at-bats in the minors.
So far he’s been tearing it up in his first 6 games, hitting .444 (8-for-18) with 2 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR, and 5 RBI.
For more, check out this feature story in the Chicago Tribune.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark also had some nice things to say about Scales, including this passage:
At 31 years and 7 months old, he’s the fourth-oldest player to make his major league debut with the Cubs since World War II. Not that that has stopped Lou Piniella from calling him a “kid.”
“That’s fine,” Scales said. “Maybe we can hoodwink him and make him think I’m about 26.”
* * * * *
The PawSox open an 8-game homestand on Saturday night at 6:05 as Charlie Zink faces former Red Sox pitcher Kyle Snyder.
We’ ll bring you “PawSox Insider” from 2:00 to 3:00 on the PawSox radio network and the guests include Red Sox director of player development Mike Hazen, Daisuke Matsuzaka (thorugh his interpreter), and newcomer John Otness. We’ll also have “Fantastic Fun Facts” with Paul McAnulty.
The first three games of the homestand are on Cox Sports TV, so I look forward to working with my pals Bob Montgomery and Steve McDonald for a few days. Steve Hyder (who fell to 13-15 on “Stump Steve”) will be joined on the radio by Mike Logan.
Most of all, I’m looking forward to getting home and seeing the handsome lad for the first time in 9 days.
I’d love to hear from you. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.