Dice-K’s Wednesday Night Start Could Have Been His Last

Red Sox News

Matsuzaka might have thrown his last pitch in Boston

Could we have seen the last of Daisuke Matsuzaka in a Red Sox uniform on Wednesday night? Maybe so, especially after his latest start that saw him serve up five runs (all earned), nine hits (including two home runs) and walk over three innings against the light-hitting Tampa Bay Rays.

A key member of Boston’s rotation in 2007 and 2008, Matsuzaka has battled injuries and ineffectiveness since then. He returned from Tommy John surgery earlier this year and has a 7.68 ERA in 10 starts, including 20 earned runs and 24 hits allowed (among them five home runs) over his last 13.1 innings.

This is certainly not the path that Matsuzaka or the Red Sox thought he would take  when the team paid a $51.1 million posting fee to the Seibu Lions after the 2006 season just for the right to negotiate a contract with the right-hander, who at the time was regarded as one of the greatest pitchers in Japanese baseball history.

The Red Sox agreed to a six-year, $52 million deal with Matsuzaka, who helped the club win the 2007 World Series with a 15-21 record and a 4.40 ERA in 32 starts and 204.2 innings. The next year, he was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA and was an integral part of a rotation that helped Boston reach Game Seven of the American League Championship series against the Rays.

Since then, Matsuzaka made 12 starts in an injury-ravaged 2009, 25 starts in an injury-impacted 2010 and seven starts last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Overall, the man whose repertoire allegedly features the baffling gyroball was 50-35 with a 4.43 ERA entering Wednesday night’s outing that was so awful that Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine replaced him with Alfredo Aceves, who had seen little action this month because of run-ins with the skipper.

Matsuzaka will become a free agent at season’s end. Chances are, the Red Sox will summon a pitcher from Pawtucket, which saw its season end this week in the Triple-A championship game. Or, Valentine could hand the ball to Aceves for a start or two.

Because he helped the team win a World Series ring, Matsuzaka’s tenure is not a complete waste. Yet the $103.1 million spent to bring him to Boston reflects the old style of conducting business that the Red Sox vow to refrain from this off-season.

 


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