PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka entered his sixth -- and possibly last -- rehab start with Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday knowing it would be a short night of work. Manager Bobby Valentine informed the media earlier in the day that the right-hander would throw no more than three innings, anticipating that he may need a big-league start from Matsuzaka this Saturday against the Washington Nationals.
This knowledge precipitated an even shorter outing for Matsuzaka, who lasted just 1 1/3 innings against the Indianapolis Indians, allowing one earned run and five base runners on 40 pitches (22 thrown for strikes).
“Usually when my body feels good and I'm told beforehand that I'm going to be throwing a certain amount of innings, the results end up being something like this,” Matsuzaka said via interpreter Jeff Cutler. “I forced myself to become a little tense before the game and probably overthrew out on the mound. It's a result I saw coming.”
Matsuzaka struggled with consistency and location in a 31-pitch first inning, specifically with his off-speed pitches. Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler pulled him early in the second after Brandon Boggs lined a single to left field, the third Indians hit.
Why so quick on the trigger? Matsuzaka offered an indirect response: “You can probably guess for yourself on that one.”
Beyeler's reasoning was more to the point.
“We got a call right before the game (from the big-league club) to just kind of cut him back a little bit and that's all they told us,” he said. “We got a little bit of inconsistent command tonight from him, but he went out and got his work in.”
Though his work was vastly limited, Matsuzaka insisted that he is physically and mentally ready should he be called on this Saturday at Fenway.
“I feel I am prepared,” he asserted. “There's no problems with my body. My fastball keeps getting better and better. The key factor is going to be command of my off-speed pitches.”
The slow stuff was indeed lackluster Tuesday, but the velocity and location of his heater were encouraging. Matsuzaka dialed it up to 94 m.p.h. from the stretch on a payoff pitch to Jeff Larish for a swinging strikeout, then followed up with a pair of 93 m.p.h. fastballs to get ahead on Jake Fox for the final out of the first inning.
“It was good to experience those tense emotions while I was out there,” Matsuzaka said. “Even under those bad circumstances, my fastball was still good. That's something good to take out of this outing.”
Matsuzaka has not made a big-league start since May 16, 2011. He is rehabbing from the Tommy John surgery he underwent on June 10 last year and has made six starts with Pawtucket, posting an 0-2 record with a 3.33 ERA entering Tuesday night.
On Saturday, Matsuzaka could fill the vacancy left by reliever-turned-starter Daniel Bard, who was demoted to Triple-A earlier Tuesday.
Bard's woes as Boston's fifth starter have been well-documented (5-6 with a 5.24 ERA), though his immediate schedule with Pawtucket is still undetermined, at least according to Beyeler.
“All I've been told is that he has been optioned out and he has 72 hours to report,” Beyeler said. “He won't be up (pitching) for us until Saturday or Sunday anyway.”
Valentine told reporters in Boston that Bard would remain a starter during his stint in Pawtucket.
Asked whether the focus would be on Bard's mechanics or his mental makeup, Beyeler offered no further indications.
“I'm just waiting for him to get here. We'll make sure he gets the work he needs and we'll take it from there.”
Bard had never been demoted to Triple-A since being called up to the majors on May 10, 2009. He has posted a record of 10-19 with a 3.39 ERA in his career with the Red Sox.