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Notes: Confidence in Dice-K

Notes: Confidence in Dice-K

CLEVELAND -- By the time the Red Sox's clubhouse door opened on Tuesday, Daisuke Matsuzaka was no longer sitting at his locker, stuck in the icy pose he was in for well over an hour following his Game 3 loss Monday night. It was a new day, and Matsuzaka -- who is slated to take the ball for the Red Sox in Sunday's Game 7, if there is one -- did some work on the field before the game.

The Red Sox? They continue to express nothing but confidence in the man who won 15 games during the regular season after the front office made a $103.1 million investment to bring him over from Japan.

"I know [the media is] worried about Dice-K," said veteran Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin. "We're not worried about him. We'll handle what we need to handle. This is a 30-man family. If one guy falls down, the rest of us pick him up. That's just how it's been all year long. It will be the same way now."

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Would Timlin and his teammates still have confidence in Matsuzaka in the pressure-cooker of a Game 7?

"His track record speaks for itself," Timlin said. "As well as he's pitched all year long, yeah."

Matsuzaka has not been the same pitcher in the second half (5-6, 5.19 ERA) that he was before the All-Star break (10-6, 3.84 ERA). His first two postseason outings (0-1, 6.75 ERA) have been both spotty and uneconomical.

In a way, Red Sox ace Josh Beckett can relate to Dice-K. Even though Beckett was coming from the Marlins last year and not Japan, there were still adjustments to be made in the American League, not to mention the intensity of pitching in Boston. Beckett didn't make a lot of adjustments last year, giving up 36 home runs and posting a 5.01 ERA. This year, he's one of the best pitchers in the game.

Beckett admitted to seeing some similarity between Matsuzaka and what he went through last year.

"I see some of the same stuff," said Beckett. "You have to make a lot more adjustments here, whether you're coming from the National League to the American League ... obviously I never played in Japan, but I would assume you still have to make some adjustments. Pitching in the American League East and pitching to some of these teams out of our division, you have to learn how to make adjustments, because great hitters, that's what they do. They make adjustments while they're at-bat, from pitch to pitch, and you have to defense what they're trying to do."

Though a lot was made out of how long Matsuzaka, still in full uniform, stared into his locker after Game 3 in what looked like stunned silence, his teammates didn't seem taken aback by it.

"He lost," Timlin said. "How would you take it? He took it pretty hard. It's the playoffs. You want to win, you want to do well for your teammates. You take it hard."

And as much as manager Terry Francona remains aware of the adjustments Dice-K is still making, he remains confident in the right-hander's heart.

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"I think he's one of the strongest guys mentally I've ever seen," Francona said. "Again, 10 minutes after a game, how a guy reacts won't have anything to do with five days later ... with time to process things and learn from our mistakes and get back on the right track."

Pedroia looking for groove: In many ways, Dustin Pedroia's early games in the postseason have resembled his struggles in April, when he hit .182.

Pedroia entered Game 4 hitting .167 in the ALCS, and .160 over his first six postseason games.

Any reason for Pedroia's struggles?

"[He's been] a little jumpy, a little anxious," Francona said. "One of the things Pedroia does real well is swing at strikes and make contact. He's chased a couple of balls out of the zone. [He's] just a little anxious. It reminds us of maybe April, and now hopefully the back part of the series will be like the rest of the year."

Pedroia made solid contact in his first at-bat of Game 4, but was robbed of a hit on a diving stop by Casey Blake. In the third, Pedroia hit a two-out single.

Beckett fine with plan: Because of his respect for both Tim Wakefield and Francona, Beckett did not lobby to pitch Game 4 on three days' rest.

"You know, we wouldn't have been where we are without Tim Wakefield," Beckett said. "He won 17 games for us. I think, in that aspect, he deserves to start tonight. Obviously I don't get paid to make those decisions and I definitely support Terry Francona, Tito Francona, whatever you want to call him. I support all of his decisions. Just like he backs us up, we back him up."

Tito sticks with troops: Despite the offensive struggles in Game 3, Francona again stayed with his mainstays. Jacoby Ellsbury remained on the bench, with J.D. Drew and Coco Crisp both in the lineup.

Francona was specifically asked about playing Ellsbury instead of Crisp.

"You've got a fly-ball pitcher and you're taking the Gold Glove center fielder out of the game? I don't know if I agree with that," Francona said. "I think that part of my responsibility is when you think you know what's right, to stay with what's right. That doesn't mean guys are going to get 15 hits every night. But I think if you go away from what got you there, I think I'd be somewhat cheating the players a little bit. I don't want to do that. There are no guarantees. Anything you do, we believe in it, but I think that's my responsibility."

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

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