Sox want Dice-K to adopt program

Sox want Dice-K to adopt program

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- One of the keys to the upcoming season for Daisuke Matsuzaka might be how well he buys into the program.

The Red Sox have set in place a structured program to strengthen the shoulder of every pitcher in the organization, especially those on the Major League staff who could approach 200 innings every season.

Matsuzaka certainly falls into that category, and manager Terry Francona said Tuesday that both the team and the pitcher are still learning each other's habits and tendencies.

"We try to explain things and to meet in the middle and take what he brought and get the best because there are some things that are really important to us, the shoulder program," said Francona, who also referred to Hideki Okajima. "It's like a non-negotiable [deal], because you've got to have the shoulder stay stretched and strong or the workload becomes too much. Once they buy into that, which they both have, it makes a lot of things easier for us to maybe meet in the middle.

"We care so much about guys' shoulders not showing the wear and tear over the course of a season."

Two days after a heavy bullpen side session of more than 100 pitches, Matsuzaka threw 47 pitches over three innings Tuesday, allowing two hits and one run in Boston's 5-3 win over Pittsburgh at City of Palms Park. Matsuzaka walked two and fanned two.

"For me, it's a progression," Matsuzaka said afterward, through interpreter Maso Hashino. "And one of the things that I wanted to work on was pitching in a tired state, so that's what I was trying out [Sunday]. Even today, I felt that I pitched with just a little bit of tightness. But today, I felt that it was a chance to really rev up the engine, so to speak, and get my arm going. I wanted to make sure I had the chance to do that during Spring Training."

Francona said prior to the start that he wasn't overly concerned about Sunday's side session.

"It was a lot of touch and feel," Francona said. "When Daisuke throws a lot of pitches like that it's not like, 'Wham!' It's touch and feel and repetition. Some of it's flat ground, and it was like 100 pitches, but never at 100 [percent].

"The routine in the past has gone completely on how he feels. He'd wake up, and how he felt is what he would do. And to some extent, there wasn't a lot of coaching. That's part of our learning him, trying to understand the difference in the cultures, where coaching isn't perceived as a lack of respect."

Francona said the organization continues to make a point to be respectful when addressing workload issues.

"We're not talking down," Francona said. "We're just trying to do our jobs and understand. We just try to meet in the middle, and when he doesn't understand something it's probably just the same as when we don't understand something. So you just try to make sure you communicate real well."

And the effort appears to be paying off since Matsuzaka is feeling more comfortable in his environment.

"The big difference between this time this year compared to last year is that I feel less concerned overall about pitching," Matsuzaka said. "But in terms of the shortened Spring Training period, I haven't really thought about that."

Mike Petraglia is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.