FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Welcome to the big leagues, Dice-K.
Boston's $103 million pitcher with the winning smile allowed
homers to two non-roster players, struggled with his control and
even threw away a potential double-play grounder against Baltimore
Daisuke Matsuzaka left after four innings with the Red Sox
trailing the Orioles 4-2 and with his impressive spring training
hitting its first bump.
There were no early signs that the Japanese right-hander would
struggle against an Orioles lineup that had first-stringers in the
first six spots.
He retired the side in order in the first -- Brian Roberts on a
fly ball to center and Melvin Mora and Jay Gibbons on strikeouts.
In the second, he allowed a single off his glove to Ramon
Hernandez, who was stranded at first.
Then Jon Knott led off the third with a homer to right-center
field. Jason DuBois then hit a two-run shot in the fourth to
left-center. After each batter swung, Matsuzaka turned around and
stayed expressionless as he watched the ball fly over the fence.
Knott has played in 12 major-league games, all with San Diego,
and led Triple-A Portland with 32 homers last season. DuBois had 10
homers in 86 games with the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland in 2004 and
Matsuzaka signed a $52 million contract after Boston posted the
winning $51 million bid to negotiate with the pitcher, who spent
the past eight seasons with the Seibu Lions.
He pitched two scoreless innings in a home game against Boston
College on March 2 and three scoreless innings in a road game
against Florida last Tuesday.
But on Sunday, Matsuzaka threw only nine first-pitch strikes to
18 batters. Of the 11 he faced in the third and fourth innings,
only four saw strikes on the first pitch. In all, Matsuzaka threw
63 pitches, 40 for strikes.
He started the fourth by allowing a single to Miguel Tejada.
Hernandez then broke his bat as he hit a hard grounder to the
mound. Matsuzaka backhanded it then threw toward second. The ball
sailed wide to the left of shortstop Julio Lugo, putting runners at
first and third. Corey Patterson followed with a sacrifice fly.
With a 1-1 count, DuBois then hit a 90 mph fastball for his
homer and a 4-2 lead. After Knott followed with a one-out single,
Boston pitching coach John Farrell visited the mound and Matsuzaka
retired Adam Stern on a fly ball before Knott was caught trying to