FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Slowed since the start of spring training because of back and neck injuries, Boston Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka took a small step Sunday toward his first appearance in a Grapefruit League game.
Matsuzaka faced Boston minor leaguers in an intrasquad game at the player development complex, about two miles from the team's spring training home at City of Palms Park. He threw 32 pitches, 18 for strikes, and then threw an additional 14 in the bullpen after his outing.
He faced eight batters in two innings, the second inning extended to five outs. After retiring the first three batters of the frame, to give him additional work, he faced another batter, with runners manufactured at first and second. He got the next batter, inducing a double play.
"It being an intrasquad game and with the fans so up close it was difficult to get into a game mindset," Matsuzaka said. "But, that being said, I was able to pitch out there with no problems and I think that's the most important thing."
With the wind at his back, his velocity topped out at 90 mph, according to a scout. Back in the major league clubhouse after his outing, it was easy to see his satisfaction.
"Daisuke was thrilled, because his command was probably where you'd expect it to be, considering it's the first time in that situation," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "But after he came back he was bouncing around. He felt really good about it."
Matsuzaka faced hitters for the first time this spring in a batting practice session on Wednesday.
"There's a difference between facing hitters in a live BP session and facing them in a game," he said. "I think what I take away from each type of practice differs when I'm able to face hitters in a game situation."
Matsuzaka is scheduled to pitch in his first Grapefruit League game Thursday after another bullpen session Tuesday, continuing his progress toward returning to Boston's starting rotation. It is unlikely, though, that he will be on the Opening Day roster.
"If you just compare where he's at right now compared to our other starters and what our goal is for each guy in our rotation, we'd like to get them to 95 pitches here in spring training before we break," said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. "So, just do the simple math. There's going to be some starts needed."
The 29-year-old Matsuzaka, for whom Boston paid $103 million ($51 million posting fee, plus $52 million contract) to acquire before the 2007 season, is entering the fourth year of a six-year contract. He could likely start the season on the disabled list after spending a total of 107 games on the DL in 2009, hampered by a mild right shoulder strain.