Matsuzaka’s Early Progress Appears All Wet
Matt Travis | On 29, Apr 2013
Many fans this spring saw the signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka and were optimistic that he could come in and help this Indians rotation. Unfortunately, this has not been the case as he has failed to find success at even the minor league level, pitching 20.2 innings with an ERA near four with 18 walks and an 0-2 record with Triple-A Columbus.
Matsuzaka has had a relatively successful yet short career in the majors, helping the Boston Red Sox win the World Series in 2007. In 2008 he posted his best season ever, going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 154 strikeouts. After that 2008 season he began to struggle with injuries as his stats became worse with less innings pitched, leading up to having Tommy John surgery in 2011. He attempted to come back in 2012 but posted awful numbers for the Red Sox going 1-7 with an ERA of 8.28.
This off season he signed a one year contract with the Indians, reuniting him with his old Red Sox manager Terry Francona. This contract was a minor league deal with an invitation to attend spring training. After a mediocre spring training he was sent to start the year in Triple-A Columbus.
Most expected Matsuzaka to do well in Columbus against lower level competition but that has not been the case. In his first start of the year, at the Indianapolis Indians, he was able to go only five innings, giving up four hits, two runs, three walks and striking out six. He received a no decision for the game. While these numbers are not awful they are much lower then expected for a pitcher who was able to win nearly 20 games at the big league level. One of the biggest problems noticed was his lack of control as he was throwing all over the place, often badly missing the strike zone.
With fans hoping that his first start was merely just a bump in his comeback, Matsuzaka came out and pitched his worst performance of the year in his next start. He was pitching at home against the Indianapolis Indians again and this time was able to only go two and a third innings. He gave up three hits, three runs, five walks and only four strike outs. This outing is very concerning as his stats all were worse in this home game, compared to the last outing against the same team. He struggled heavily to locate his fast ball and was giving batters easy pitches to watch go by for balls. Matsuzaka again was able to get a no decision out of this game despite his poor performance.
In third start of the year he was able to hold the Toledo Mudhens to only two hits but again his control did him in. While the small amount of hits was a nice sign, he walked eight batters in only four innings of work while striking out four. In the second and third innings Matsuzaka walked the first two batters, with the third batter reaching on a walk as well in the third inning. Matsuzaka had nearly no control in his game as he only had five 0-1 counts and at one point threw 11 consecutive balls. He gave up two runs over the four innings and was tagged with the loss for the game.
It seemed like the fourth start of the year might have been a turning point for Matsuzaka as he pitched some of his best baseball of the year. Against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders, Matsuzaka pitched six and one-third innings, giving up only three hits, two runs and most importantly two walks and eight strikeouts. This game was the first start where every one of his pitches seemed to be controlled, finding the zone and hitting the corners with pitches that had before been off mark. Matsuzaka was able to keep the batters to a .143 batting average for the game, his lowest of the year. Despite his strong effort he still earned the loss as the Clippers could muster only one run that day.
His most recent start yesterday against the Pawtucket Red Sox he was building on that previous start, as he had a perfect game going through three innings. It seemed that Matsuzaka was finally finding his form again and was going to be the strong pitcher the Indians need. The problem, however, was that he was only able to go three innings as he was injured on his first batter of the fourth inning with an undisclosed injury. This is exactly what Matsuzaka did not need as it seemed that he was finally hitting his stride and could possibly string together back-to-back nice starts for the first time all season.
Overall, Matsuzaka’s time in Columbus so far has been very unsuccessful as he has failed to find success and when he does he only gets injured. The injury is still unknown but he will most likely miss his next start. His time in Columbus has shown that he is not ready for the necessary 40-man roster move to promote him to Cleveland as of now. If Matsuzaka could come back from his injury and pitch the way he has the last two starts then maybe he could be productive in Cleveland as the starting rotation struggles. Until Matsuzaka can show that he can control his pitches, maintain the zone, cut down on walks and keep himself healthy, his ride up Interstate-71 seems unlikely soon.
Photo: Andy Morrison/Toledo Blade