- Gordon Edes, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
This is not the way the Boston Red Sox wanted to learn that Daisuke Matsuzaka hurt himself even before the World Baseball Classic last spring, reading his comments translated from an interview he gave to a Japanese magazine.
But that's how it went down, a major league source said Sunday, even though Matsuzaka was asked repeatedly by the club last season if he was hurt and told them repeatedly he was OK.
Matsuzaka and his agent, Scott Boras, who said nothing about Matsuzaka being hurt when he was in Boston on Friday for the news conference to announce the Red Sox's signing of Adrian Beltre, can expect to be quizzed about his purported injury -- and his refusal to come clean to his employers -- if they haven't been already.
The fact that the Sox were unaware of the injury not only raises questions about its authenticity, it puts another strain on a relationship between the star Japanese pitcher and the team, which turned antagonistic last summer when the Sox sent Matsuzaka to Fort Myers because his ineffectiveness was due, in their judgment, to his being woefully out of shape.
Now comes Matsuzaka with a story that appeared in the Japanese magazine Friday and was translated by Daigo Fujiwara of the Boston Globe, in which Matsuzaka claims to have sustained a leg injury while training last winter for the World Baseball Classic.
"Early on in January 2009, I hurt my right inner thigh,'' Matsuzaka said in the translation by Fujiwara and published by the Globe. "I consider movement around my hip joint a crucial part of my pitching motion. It happened during my exercise to strengthen my hip joint that I incorporated into training since 2008. I may have pushed myself just a little too hard. It wasn't the pain that killed me, but it was the regrets and guilt that filled my mind. It was the time to start building up for the season, but I hurt myself because of my own doing.
"I had to make a decision whether this injury was serious enough to withdraw from the World Baseball Classic. But my body was functioning well, and by taking anti-inflammatory medicine I can tolerate the pain. So I continued training, but actually it was even hard just to jog.''
Matsuzaka said he deliberately kept the injury secret, both from Japanese trainers and later the Red Sox, because he didn't want to be perceived an excuse-maker.
"I didn't want to show my weaknesses,'' he said. "I didn't want them to think I was making excuses. I would rather be criticized than ridiculed for making excuses. I repeat, I really didn't want to be the center of concern for people. I believe when you say you are sick, you become sick. Sure I appreciate that you are concerned about me, but I don't even like to be wished good luck about my health.''
Matsuzaka was MVP of the World Baseball Classic for the second time for the victorious Japanese. But he gave up three home runs in his first start of the season and was knocked out after just one inning in his second, leading to his first stint on the disabled list. Then in June, with his record at 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA, Matsuzaka was dispatched to Fort Myers with what was termed weakness in his shoulder for a stay that lasted nearly two months. In essence, he was being asked to repeat spring training because of what the Red Sox considered his inadequate preparation.
While he was in Florida, another interview appeared in a Japanese publication in which Matsuzaka complained that conforming to the Red Sox's training techniques had negatively impacted his effectiveness, criticism that elicited anger from the Sox, which general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona conveyed in a meeting to the apologetic pitcher.
Matsuzaka returned in mid-September and told Japanese reporters off the record that he'd injured his groin before the WBC, one Japanese journalist said Sunday. But according to a major league source, he did not share that information with the team. Matsuzaka pitched well the rest of the way, posting a 3-1 record with a 2.22 ERA. But he finished the season with a 4-6 record and 5.76 ERA, a huge dropoff from the 18-3 record and 2.90 ERA in 2008.
Thus the Red Sox were pleased at Matsuzaka's decision this winter to train in Arizona at the Athletes Performance Institute, while he expressed gratitude, in the magazine interview, that the Red Sox are honoring his desire to reincorporate the long bullpen throwing sessions to which he was accustomed in Japan.
"I am very sorry for making you worry,'' Matsuzaka told the Japanese magazine. "I assure you that the  season will be a great season. I am going to redeem what I lost in 2009. With my health back, I am confident and determined to produce this year. I will [try my best to] become a world champion once again."
Still, the Red Sox plan to ask some questions, and reiterate to Matsuzaka that they expect him to be forthcoming. One casualty from last season appears to be Takanori Maeda, the Japanese physical therapist hired by the club to work with Matsuzaka. He will not be back this season.
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.