Notes: Matsuzaka faces Boston's finest

Notes: Matsuzaka faces Boston's finest

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Forget about the non-roster invites who faced Daisuke Matsuzaka a couple of days ago. On Monday, Matsuzaka faced the big boppers.

Among those who stepped in against the Japanese right-hander were David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Julio Lugo and Wily Mo Pena.

Because it was Ramirez's first day in camp, he chose to simply track a few pitches of Matsuzaka rather than swing. However, the others all took their hacks.

During Matsuzaka's 54-pitch session, Ortiz struck a single through the right side. One or two other balls were hit hard. Aside from that, Matsuzaka induced a lot of foul balls, weak grounders and swings-and-misses from the variety of hitters he faced.

"He's got good stuff," Ortiz said. "What he's going to do this year? I don't know. We'll have to wait and see. But I'm pretty sure he's going to do well. He's got good stuff, and he knows how to pitch. He stays in the strike zone. That's all you need to survive in the big leagues."

Matsuzaka will get his first game action Friday night in an exhibition start against Boston College. It is such a big deal in Boston that NESN is providing bonus coverage of the game while Matsuzaka is pitching, and will then shift back to regularly scheduled programming after his exit.

"I've only heard about Red Sox Nation so far," Matsuzaka said. "But I know Boston fans are very, very passionate fans. I would like to feel their passion at Fenway Park very soon."

Until then, City of Palms Park is going to have to do.

Once again, Matsuzaka broke out his entire arsenal during his batting practice session. He pitched from the stretch for the entire time.

"He had some good stuff," Pena said. "I was waiting for his fastball and it was sneaky, quick. It moves. After that, I just said, 'Let me see what he's got.' He's got nasty stuff, he's going to be good. He threw a split, changeup, curve, slider -- everything. Ortiz was saying the same thing. Everything he throws has movement."

Timlin bounces back: The most encouraging news of the day was that setup man Mike Timlin did not miss the workout a day after tweaking his lower back.

"He had an oblique spasm yesterday," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He showed up today, was a little stiff this morning and really loosened up well. We kind of gave him the warning of, 'We don't want you on the mound until we know you're fine.' I don't think he thinks it was anything but a spasm, but we will certainly keep an eye on him and we'll make sure he throws a bullpen before he throws in a game, so we don't find out the hard way that we pushed him too much."

Timlin was originally scheduled to pitch in relief during Wednesday's exhibition opener, but that will now be pushed back a day or two.

Reliever Craig Hansen isn't recovering as well from his back issues. Hansen again was unable to throw.

"It's disappointing because for a young guy every day it is important to get on the field, but he's just being held back a little bit right now," Francona said.

Beckett stands out: The one starting pitcher who has gotten rave reviews from just about every throwing session is Josh Beckett. The righty will make his exhibition season debut on Thursday against Northeastern University, and he certainly appears to be ready.

"I watched Beckett today and actually would use the word phenomenal -- threw fastballs down; they exploded through the zone," Francona said. "[He] threw the ball very well and under control."

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.