Dice-K's readiness pushed back

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Whatever remote chance Daisuke Matsuzaka had of being ready for the start of the regular season vanished when he was unable to throw a batting practice session here Saturday morning.

Matsuzaka was warming up for the session and had thrown five pitches in the bullpen when he shut it down. Red Sox publicist Pam Ganley then announced that Matsuzaka was a no-go because of a stiff neck.

Back problems dating back to Feb. 12 had put Matsuzaka behind the other Red Sox starters, but he was only days away from appearing in a game on Wednesday -- most likely in minor-league camp.

But that would now be out of the question, especially because Matsuzaka also has some personal issues that will require a trip back to Boston.

The Red Sox like their starters to have around 25 innings under their belt before the start of the regular season. With just three weeks before the April 4 opener, that's not going to happen with Daisuke.

It's a reasonable expectation that when camp breaks here on April 1, the Sox will leave Matsuzaka behind.

Manager Terry Francona will field questions on the topic following Saturday afternoon's game against the Pirates.