FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A half-dozen quick thoughts on Boston’s 9-8 loss to the Minnesota Twins, who scored six times in the ninth to cinch the Mayor’s Cup, the prize for being the best team in the Fort.
* Daisuke was dandy: The Red Sox should conduct a full-scale investigation to discover what turned things around for Daisuke Matsuzaka. Could it be as simple as the change in his between-starts routine, in which Daisuke relented and no longer long tosses and throws a side session on the same day? Pitching coach Curt Young believed that it was sapping him of arm strength, and in each of his final three starts of spring, Matsuzaka has had a live fastball. That could also be the normal progression of spring, but Matsuzaka was at his most impressive Saturday night, giving up an early run to the Twins then clamping down with five scoreless innings.
Matsuzaka appeared reluctant to ascribe too much to the change in routine, although you never knows what might have been lost in translation. “So far I’m happy with it,’’ he said.
Matsuzaka walked just one, struck out four, and worked ahead in the count for most of the night. Seems he has a nice comfort level with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, which wasn’t always the case with Victor Martinez.
Matsuzaka posted a 1.62 ERA in his last three starts, with 13 whiffs and just 4 walks in 16 2/3 innings. More importantly, he is heading into the season healthy, a big improvement over last season, when he opened on the DL and 2009, when he showed up out of shape, hid a hamstring injury, then hurt his shoulder in mid-April.
“My first objective was to keep healthy ... and stand at the same starting line as the other pitchers,’’ Matsuzaka said. “I’m very happy with that.’’
If he pitches like this consistently, he won’t remain a No. 5 starter for long.
“His stuff was sharp, and his fastball had real good finish,’’ said Francona, adding that Young’s message to be more aggressive appeared to be hitting its mark with Matsuzaka.
* The new guy goes deep: Adrian Gonzalez, two weeks after he appeared in his first game, hit his first home run of the spring, a drive to left-center field off left-hander Brian Duensing. There’s still some rust -- he made his second error in two nights -- but Gonzalez is clearly rounding into game shape. Gonzalez, who went down to minor-league camp for 10 at-bats on Wednesday to get some extra swings, also singled.
* Gloating, grieving over Mayor’s Cup: Twins manager Ron Gardenhire last year was named AL Manager of the Year. Francona has never won the award. If that holds form this year, the night Gardy stole the Cup back for the first time in five seasons will be remembered as a harbinger. The Twins won the series, 3 games to 2.
“I was all ready to bring the Cup in with me,’’ Francona said as he entered the interview room. “That hurt.’’
Gardenhire, meanwhile, maintained his usual even keel. “Waiting for my call from President Obama,’’ he said. “I’ve gotta show [Tsuyoshi Nishioka] the White House.’’
* Jenks past perfect: Reliever Bobby Jenks, who had been unscored upon in six previous spring appearances, was on the mound when the Twins mounted their ninth-inning rally. Only two of the runs were earned, because of an error, but Jenks gave up five hits, walked a man and threw a wild pitch. “He left a couple of balls over the middle of the plate,’’ Francona said. “We asked him and he said he felt a little blah.’’
There also was this: “Maybe the pressure of the Cup got to him.’’
* Reddick reduced: The Sox optioned outfielder Josh Reddick to Pawtucket. They’d kept him a few extra days, Francona said, because he had a sore side and they wanted to make sure he was OK before they sent him out. He played Saturday night.
* Epic losing streak: The Sox have now lost nine in a row. According to Boston baseball historian Bill Nowlin, that’s never happened before in spring training (How does he know stuff like that?). Spring-training record-keeping is not typically a high priority in MLB.