Dice-K decision looms for Red Sox


ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- Daisuke Matsuzaka is waiting for word on where he will make his next start.

Matsuzaka left Coca-Cola Park in Allentown on Wednesday night saying he was healthy and hoping that his pitching had proved he was ready to rejoin the Boston Red Sox. Red Sox manager Terry Francona said late last week that Matsuzaka would join the team's rotation after this last rehab start.

"I talked to the guys charting the game in the stands and they thought my velocity was pretty much where it needs to be," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter after throwing 99 pitches and getting the win as the Pawtucket Red Sox defeated the Lehigh Valley IronPigs 8-4 in an International League game.

Matsuzaka struck out eight and did not allow a walk in 5 2/3 innings, but he also was scored on for the first time in three injury rehabilitation assignments with the PawSox. He gave up four runs, three earned, on six hits after allowing a two-run single by Dewayne Wise on his final pitch.

"Watching what he did, it was probably his best outing, despite the numbers," PawSox manager Torey Lovullo said. "He had his little hiccups, but they are not a concern to me."

Lovullo said he will file a report for the parent club, including feedback from pitching coach Rich Sauveur. But if Matsuzaka is to get the call up to the big club, Francona and GM Theo Epstein will have to make room in the starting rotation. That figures to impact either Tim Wakefield or Clay Buchholz, both of whom have been mediocre thus far.

Wakefield is 0-1 with a 6.38 ERA, allowing 13 earned runs and seven walks in 18 1/3 innings. Buchholz is 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA, but has allowed seven runs (five of them unearned) and has six walks in 10 innings.

"I have no indication from Boston," Lovullo said. "Rich, Dice-K and myself will report back to Boston.

"It was fun to watch when he got on that little roll."

Matsutzaka struck out five straight, getting the last out with two men on in the third inning, then striking out the middle of the Lehigh Valley order in the fourth and the leadoff batter in the fifth.

"In the first three innings, they were getting little hits here and there," Matsuzaka said. "I went out in the fourth inning, the heart of their order came up and I wanted to do my best to not let those guys get on base."

Matsuzaka, who was sidelined twice with shoulder problems last season, said the Red Sox's slow start was not a factor in how he approached his rehab work.

"Just because the team is struggling, it doesn't make the feeling any stronger," he said. "I always want to be able to contribute no matter how we're doing."

The latest outing leaves Matsuzaka with a 2-0 record and 1.62 earned run average in three starts.

"The only thing that I can really be satisfied with is the fact that I'm healthy," Matsuzaka said.

The IronPigs had three extra-base hits -- a home run by Dane Sardinha, a triple by Wise and a double by Rich Thompson.

Left fielder Matt Sheely prevented another possible extra-base hit by Thompson with a diving, back-hand catch near the line with two men on in the third.

Matsuzaka also made a rehab appearance for the PawSox in Allentown in 2008 in the middle of an 18-3 season with Boston. He said the only difference in his pitching approach came from being less familiar with the Lehigh Valley lineup.

"Unlike hitters I face in the big leagues, I don't know a lot about some of them," Matsuzaka said. "Instead of attacking each hitter a certain way, I sort of experimented to see how they would respond."