Dice-K gives up HRs in first two innings

MINNEAPOLIS--Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, Whit Merrifield of the Class A Wilmington Blue Rocks, in his first rehab start since undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last June.

Matsuzaka, pitching for the Class A Salem Red Sox, unofficially touched 92 on the radar gun and threw 27 pitches in a two-run first inning. Wilmington came into the game batting .210 overall and had hit just two home runs in its first 15 games.

Matsuzaka's first pitch of the second inning also resulted in a home run by 21-year-old Geulin Beltre, who came into the game batting .157.

Matsuzaka wound up going four innings, allowing three runs on six hits (including the two homers) while striking out three and walking none. He threw 57 pitches, 40 for strikes.

It was a tough night weatherwise, with temperatures in the high 40s and a brisk wind blowing.

Matsuzaka is on track to return to the Red Sox within 30 days, the maximum allowed by MLB for a pitcher on rehab assignment. Matsuzaka has impressed the Red Sox with the way he has appeared to be ahead of the normal schedule for pitchers recovering from Tommy John, which typically is 12 to 15 months.

A few other tidbits from Bobby Valentine's pregame session with the media:

* Carl Crawford served as a DH in extended spring training Monday and was hitless in three trips to the plate.

* Jacoby Ellsbury showed improved range in motion in his partially dislocated right shoulder.

* Valentine said he hasn't made out his lineup card for Tuesday but said "call it a hunch" that catcher Kelly Shoppach will be behind the plate for Josh Beckett.

* Valentine dismissed a report in the New York Daily News that claimed that there was "a very ugly scene" between the manager and infielder Mike Aviles during an infield drill in the first week of spring training. "It goes from the sublime to ridiculous, doesn't it, around here?,'' Valentine said. "Those New York writers. If we're going to do a full disclosure, which we better do, at the team party that I threw, I spilled a Coke on one of the players' wives and I apologized."

Aviles also denied there was such an incident to reporters. "That happened?'' he said. "Not that I know of.''

Here is the Sox lineup facing right-hander Jason Marquis:

Mike Aviles, ss

Ryan Sweeney, rf

Dustin Pedroia, 2b

Adrian Gonzalez, 1b

David Ortiz, DH

Kevin Youkilis, 3b

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c

Cody Ross, lf

Marlon Byrd, cf

Jon Lester, LHP