Dice-K starts comeback bid in Japan

NISHINOMIYA, Japan -- Daisuke Matsuzaka made the first start of his comeback in Japan on Wednesday, returning to the scene of one of his most memorable pitching performances.

After eight seasons in Major League Baseball, Matsuzaka is looking to rebuild his career with the SoftBank Hawks of Japan's Pacific League.

The 34-year-old right-hander struck out two batters while giving up four hits over three scoreless innings in his first start of the exhibition season. He walked two batters in the 57-pitch outing against the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.

"I had a few butterflies at first," Matsuzaka said. "But I was able to settle down and get some powerful pitches across the plate, so I'm pleased about that."

Matsuzaka famously threw 250 pitches in 17 innings at the 1998 high school tournament at Koshien, a marathon outing that came a day after a 148-pitch shutout. He also threw a no-hitter in the final, leading Yokohama High School to the championship.

Matsuzaka was 3-3 with a 3.89 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 34 games last season for the New York Mets.

In his first season in the majors, Matsuzaka helped Boston win the World Series in 2007. His best season was 2008, when he went 18-3 with 154 strikeouts and a 2.90 ERA, but he didn't live up to expectations after that.