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Dice-K delayed by downpour

Matsuzaka's latest effort cut short by rain

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- With a torrential downpour -- rare at this time of year in Florida -- inundating Vero Beach on Friday afternoon, submerging the dugouts, flooding the press box and soaking virtually every person in Dodgertown, Daisuke Matsuzaka's third Grapefruit League start was called in the top of the third, with one out.

In two innings, Matsuzaka had thrown 34 pitches, 24 for strikes, well short of the targeted five innings and 80 to 85 pitches manager Terry Francona had set. In his two innings of work, Matsuzaka allowed a run on three hits, striking out three.

As the rain continued to fall, Matsuzaka continued to pitch, moving to the covered batting cages beyond the right-field fence, with Jason Varitek catching, and Francona, pitching coach John Farrell, bullpen coach Gary Tuck and scores of media looking on.

In addition to his two innings against the Dodgers, Matsuzaka threw 77 pitches over five simulated innings to Sox Minor Leaguers in the cages, Farrell said.

For Matsuzaka, dealing with rain delays is just part of learning to pitch in America.

"It's something that I wanted to experience, and I had the chance to experience it [Friday]," he said.

In the first inning, Matsuzaka threw 20 pitches (14 strikes) to six batters. He allowed a run on three hits, including a double to leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal, who scored of Marlon Anderson's single to left after moving to third on Juan Pierre's bunt.

In the second, Matsuzaka set down the side in order, but he worked out of the stretch from the start of the inning.

"I had runners on base [in the first], and this is something that I try out a lot during the exhibition games," Matsuzaka said of working from the stretch. "If I feel that my balance is a little bit better in starting from the stretch, I'll switch to that, and that's what happened [Friday]."

While Matsuzaka said he was satisfied with the amount of work he was able to get in Friday, Farrell acknowledged it's not the ideal way to do it.

"Unfortunately, the rain interrupted this game, but we were able to get Daisuke close to 100 pitches today with the in-game work plus simulating the [five] innings," Farrell said. "We were able to accomplish the overall volume to keep him on his every five days [rotation]. Had we stopped after two innings, it would have really affected, I think, his overall work and continuing to build his pitch counts."

Farrell said he and Varitek took a more aggressive approach with Matsuzaka on Friday, reviewing hitters before the game, preparing him for work during the regular season.

"[We worked on] tendencies that we have or information that we have on hitters, and that will become more in-depth as we get closer to the start of the season," Farrell said. "Certainly once the regular season begins with advance reports. Jason is very in-depth when it comes to preparing a game plan, but today was the first of the four starts that Daisuke has had that we've sat down and had a meeting prior to the start of the game to give him that information, to take that into the game."

Matsuzaka also got his first experience at the plate this spring. But as with Josh Beckett, who pitched against the Mets on Thursday night in Port St. Lucie, Matsuzaka was under strict orders not to swing. That didn't stop him from getting on base, drawing a full-count walk. But after Dodgers starter Hong-Chi Kuo had Matsuzaka in an 0-2 deficit in the third inning, the Sox pitcher thought he struck out on the next pitch, leaving the batters box to head back to the dugout. Four balls later, he was on first base.

"I had already mentioned to the catcher [Russell Martin] and the umpire [Ed Hickox] today that I wouldn't be swinging today," Matsuzaka said. "So when that third pitch came in, I thought to myself, 'It's probably a [strike].' But it turned out to be a ball. And then when I went out on base, my only thought was, 'Well, it would be great if I could make it home,' and I did."

Matsuzaka came home on Eric Hinske's three-run homer, scoring ahead of Jacoby Ellsbury, who was hit by a pitch.

Before the game, Francona noted the strong winds and predicted an afternoon of long balls. His players proved him prophetic. In addition to Hinske, Wily Mo Pena and Varitek had back-to-back home runs in the second inning.

With the rainout, none of the stats from Friday's two-plus innings will remain in Grapefruit League records.

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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