Dice-K allows two homers, struggles with control

Updated: March 11, 2007, 9:57 PM ET
Associated Press

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 on Sunday.

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 2005.

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 steal.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press