Dice-K blaming Red Sox for shoulder problems

Daisuke Matsuzaka has gotten to the root of all of his shoulder woes this season: The Boston Red Sox…or so he indicated recently in an article for a Japanese newspaper.

In the story, Matsuzaka suggested that his effectiveness and health are being negatively impacted by the training techniques of the team. He blamed his current predicament on an inability by the club to account for the needs of Japanese pitchers, and suggested that he was ready to take a stand in an effort to return to the practices that he followed before coming to Major League Baseball.

The Red Sox consistently have cited the World Baseball Classic as the chief culprit for the pitcher’s struggles and subsequent time on the sidelines. Matsuzaka, however, blames his season on the throwing program and training techniques that the Sox outlined for him once he came to the U.S.

“If I’m forced to continue to train in this environment, I may no longer be able to pitch like I did in Japan,” Matsuzaka is quoted as saying in the article, which was written by Taeko Yoshii. “The only reason why I managed to win games during the first and second years (in the U.S.) was because I used the savings of the shoulder I built up in Japan. Since I came to the Major Leagues, I couldn’t train in my own way, so now I’ve lost all those savings.”

Nonetheless, Matsuzaka indicated that he may be less inclined to listen going forward. The pitcher cited the history of Japanese starters whose careers have endured steep declines (Hideo Nomo and Kaz Ishii come to mind) — often accompanied by injuries — after just a couple of years of effectiveness in the U.S. (It is, however, worth noting that Nomo rebounded from that decline to enjoy renewed success later in his career.) Because of such examples, Matsuzaka said that he is emboldened about the need to return to the training techniques with which he grew up.

Point: The Red Sox shelled out quite a lot of dough to bring Dice-K over from Japan and make him a major league pitcher. So if they want him eating blueberry Pop Tarts while hopping on one foot all while watching reruns of “I Love Lucy,” then that’s exactly what Dice-K should do. Boston is essentially Matsuzaka’s boss, so he needs to meet them half way and work something out. And I think it was a little childish of him to run off to a Japanese newspaper bitching and crying about the Red Sox training procedures when he’s making that much money.

Counterpoint: Players know their bodies more than teams do, so if Dice-K thinks that eating the cinnamon Pop Tarts while hopping on both feet all while watching reruns of “Alf” make for a better training program, then Boston should step aside and let him do what’s comfortable for him. After all, if the Sox don’t want him to wind up like Hideki Irabu, then it would behoove them to allow Matsuzaka to perform the methods that made him so successful in Japan and the first couple years in the U.S.

I don’t think either argument is wrong, but one thing is for sure: the Red Sox have a problem here. Dice-K has been filthy atrocious this season and can’t stay healthy. If he starts closing his eyes and plugging his ears while stomping around his bedroom whenever Boston tries to reason with him, then the club will have an even bigger problem than Dice-K’s bloated ERA.

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Dice-K out of Boston’s rotation for good?

The Red Sox might have found the answer to their question about what to do with their starting rotation when John Smoltz comes off the DL, although it’s certainly not one they were expecting would unveil itself.

Boston fans and those unfortunate enough to have him on their fantasy team know that Daisuke Matsuzaka has been wretched this season. After the Braves beat him like a piñata last Friday, Dice-K dropped to 1-5 on the season with an 8.23 ERA and 2.20 WHIP.

Following that performance, the BoSox placed Matsuzaka on the disabled list for the second time this year, this time due to isuckitis and ican’tthrowastriketosavemylifeitis. And as the Boston Herald points out, Dice-K might not return to the starting rotation for the rest of the season, even if he does come off the DL in perfect health.

Smoltz is set to make his 2009 debut this week and with Brad Penny pitching as well as he has this season, there isn’t any room for the struggling Matsuzaka in the rotation. So even if the team doesn’t find anything wrong with him in his latest stint on the DL, Dice-K might have to ride out the rest of the season in the bullpen or on the pine.

Of course, there’s a major possibility that the 86-year old Smoltz and the fragile Penny could go down at some point this season and Dice-K could leap back into the rotation, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But it is staggering that a pitcher who went 18-3 last year with a 2.90 ERA has struggled so badly this season.

One issue that is sure to be brought up is Dice-K’s role in the World Baseball Classic. He pitched well int he WBC this year, yet he’s struggled mightily so far in the MLB season. How does a pitcher who went 18-3 one year go directly in the toilet the following season? Did he get worn out or hurt in the WBC? If he did, it would be yet another reason not to have the WBC be played before the MLB season.

Either way, Boston is thankful to have the pitching depth they do and despite other teams being interested in his services, it doesn’t look like Penny is going anywhere now.

Red Sox to skip Dice-K’s next start

With John Smoltz set to come off the DL, the Boston Red Sox have decided to skip struggling Daisuke Matsuzaka’s next start.

At the moment, Matsuzaka does not have a next scheduled start. John Smoltz is slated to go Thursday in Matsuzaka’s normal turn in the rotation. Pitching coach John Farrell said after the game, “I think until a determination comes from within, we haven’t announced a rotation beyond that.’’

“There’s certainly no imminent announcement, if that’s what you’re asking for,’’ Farrell added of what comes next for Matsuzaka. “But knowing how determined he is, knowing the work ethic that he has, he’s disappointed, I’m sure. But at the same time we can’t forget that this is a 33-game winner over the previous two years coming into this season. We certainly have some work to do. Consistency of strikes, particularly with his fastball, is the primary target. We’ll continue to work toward that.’’

Manager Terry Francona said that with Monday’s offday, the Sox have “the ability to be a little flexible in what we do going forward.’’ He also said that nothing is likely to be an nounced before Monday, prior to the team’s trip to Washington.

The Sox were contemplating moving Brad Penny to the bullpen to make room for Smoltz in the rotation, but he’s pitched well in his last two outings and it’s hard to move him with Dice-K pitching so poorly. Penny’s name has also surfaced in trade rumors the past week, but nothing serious has materialized yet.

While Boston would certainly love to have the Dice-K that went 18-3 last year, at least with Penny pitching well they can be patient while Matsuzaka works out the kinks. While they have the time, I’m sure the club’s training staff will determine whether or not Dice-K’s problems are physical. He could still be suffering from the shoulder injury that landed him on the DL last month.

Dice-K falls to 0-3 on the season, sets record for wild pitches

The 2009 season has not been kind so far to Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, who dropped to 0-3 on the season after setting a record for wild pitches in a 4-2 loss to the Twins on Wednesday.

Daisuke Matsuzaka and the rest of the Red Sox righties tied a modern-day record with six wild pitches while Twins starter Kevin Slowey was the picture of control in Minnesota’s 4-2 victory over Boston.

Matsuzaka (0-3) tied a franchise record set 80 years ago with four wild pitches, while relievers Manny Delcarmen and Justin Masterson also sent Kottaras scrambling. It was just the fifth time since 1900 that a team threw six wild pitches in a game.

Boston’s slumping slugger, David Ortiz, batted sixth again and continued to look slow with the stick. He struck out on three pitches in his first at-bat, the last an 89 mph fastball that Slowey left up and over the middle of the plate.

It’s amazing how some of the key components that helped Boston win a World Series just two seasons ago can’t get it together this year. (Or are serving a 50-game suspension for another team.)

Big Papi is hitting a flabbergasting .193 with just one home run and 18 RBI, Dice-K is currently 0-3 with an eye-popping 8.82 ERA and 2.33 WHIP, and Jason Varitek is only hitting…okay well, Jason Varitek could never hit.

The good thing is that Kevin Youkilis is hitting almost .380 this year, Dustin Pedroia hasn’t cooled off since winning the AL MVP Award last season and Jason Bay is currently playing out of his mind. Still, it’ll be interesting to see if guys like Dice-K and Big Papi can turn it around at some point this year. You have to wonder if Big Papi is still hurt or if not having Manny in the lineup is killing his production. (Or as some people speculate, whether or not he’s still on the juice.)

Dice-K DL stint proof that WBC is a bad idea

The Red Sox placed starter Daisuke Matsuzaka on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday due to arm fatigue. Dice-K was brutal in his first two starts, yielding 14 total hits and nine runs in just 6.1 innings of work. He still struck out five, but he gave up three dingers and posted an ERA of 12.79.

Dice-K competed for Japan in the World Baseball Classic and while he only through 14.2 innings, it was obviously enough for him to suffer some arm fatigue. I know the WBC has rules so that pitchers don’t get overworked playing in the tournament, but clearly that isn’t enough because now the Red Sox will be without one of their best pitchers for two weeks.

The WBC is a fun tournament and it’s interesting to watch MLB players compete against each other for their countries. But it isn’t supposed to get in the way of the MLB regular season and clearly it has considering it had some affect on Matsuzaka’s arm.

Bud Selig has to figure out a better format if he wants to continue this tournament going forward. One idea is to put it at the end of the MLB season, since all of the games are being played indoors anyway. It makes no sense for some of these pro ballplayers to be playing in a competitive tournament when they should be getting ready for spring training.

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