- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein had to act fast. Daisuke Matsuzaka felt what he called "sudden tightnesss" in his right forearm while warming up for Saturday's start against the Phillies, something the Red Sox GM learned right about the time the last notes of the national anthem were fading in Fenway Park.
Decisions had to be made. The first was to place Matsuzaka on the 15-day disabled list.
"Primarily, we're not going to throw a starting pitcher with forearm tightness in his next start or two out of caution," Epstein wrote in an e-mail after the game.
After shelving Matsuzaka, a summons went out to Pawtucket for another pitcher, left-handed reliever Dustin Richardson.
"It behooved us to make a roster move by game time to get the pitcher active for today just in case," wrote Epstein, even if it meant that Richardson would not arrive until mid-game.
Meanwhile, Red Sox manager Terry Francona sought out reliever Scott Atchison, who already was on his fourth go-round with the club this season, having returned Friday night on the Pawtucket shuttle. Atchison had never started a game in his limited big league experience. The last time he had started anywhere with any regularity was eight years ago, in Triple-A Tacoma, when he was 26 years old.
That changed Saturday afternoon. Even before the decision was made to shut down Matsuzaka, Francona wasn't taking any chances after pitching coach John Farrell had called to say he was worried about what he was seeing and hearing from Daisuke.
"[Matsuzaka] said he could pitch but he'd have to change his arm slot a little bit," Francona said. "That wasn't going to be a good idea.''
Francona told Atchision he was starting. Atchison grabbed his glove and headed to the bullpen, even before Matsuzaka had returned to the dugout.
"I didn't want to surprise somebody," Francona said of giving Atchison the heads-up. "I didn't want to put someone behind the eight-ball more than he is. Then it became apparent when Johnny called back and said, 'I'm not comfortable with this,' and I don't think Daisuke fought it."
The plan was to piece together nine innings from the bullpen. It went exactly as they'd mapped it out, Francona said. Atchison went the first three innings, throwing 52 pitches, the most he has thrown this season.
Manny Delcarmen (two innings), Hideki Okajima (1 1/3), Ramon Ramirez (1 2/3) and Jonathan Papelbon (1) followed. With Papelbon's pitch count (25) climbing in the ninth, Richardson was instructed to warm up, but did not get in the game.
It helped, of course, that the Red Sox scored eight runs in the first three innings -- giving them a total of 20 scored against the Phils in the first three innings in two games -- en route to a 10-2 win.
"That's a lot to ask from a bullpen," Francona said. "Fortunately everything went as well as it could. Atchison gives us three, which is a lot, and everybody who came in pitched great."
Still to be determined is how serious Matsuzaka's injury is. Forearm tightness is often a harbinger of elbow issues. Francona said team medical director Thomas Gill will examine the pitcher Sunday.
Matsuzaka, who last pitched Monday night in Cleveland and went eight scoreless innings in a 4-0 win over the Indians, said he had no advance warning that something was wrong.
"Nothing out of the ordinary,'' he told reporters when asked how he came out of his last start. "I went through my normal routine, got some massage work done. I went into my start today feeling pretty much the same as usual, so yes, it was sudden.
"Once I got in [the bullpen] and started throwing, I felt some sudden tightness in my forearm. I think I could have pitched through it, but we talked about it and decided there's no sense in trying to compensate and making a mechanical adjustment just to get through it, so that was the decision.''
Matsuzaka was placed on the DL retroactive to June 8, making him eligible to return on June 23. The Sox have off days this Monday and next, so it's conceivable that Matsuzaka would only have to miss one start. The Red Sox will need a starter for one game next weekend against the Dodgers.
This is Matsuzaka's second stint on the DL this season. He spent the first month on the DL with what was officially listed as a strained neck, but the Red Sox were just giving him time to build up arm strength after he missed the first three weeks of spring training with a back problem.
Prior to the game, the Red Sox added outfielder Daniel Nava to the roster from Pawtucket. He hit a grand slam on the first pitch he saw Saturday.
Meanwhile, Boston optioned outfielder Josh Reddick to Pawtucket following Friday night's game.
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.
3hAdam Lewis, Special to ESPN.com