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Dice-K settling into a groove

Dice-K settling into a groove

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Daisuke Matsuzaka is not in midseason form just yet, and he doesn't need to be. One of the most annoying aspects of last Spring Training for the right-hander was that he didn't have a chance to breathe. All eyes were on him, even for every side session.

Throughout his entire professional career, Matsuzaka has never been a fast starter. And this spring, he can simply go about his work and fine-tune things as he goes. That's exactly what Matsuzaka did on Friday against the Orioles, giving up four hits and two runs over four innings.

"In terms of the four games that I've pitched so far, I feel that things are coming along well," Matsuzaka said. "As I've said before, I'm a slow starter, so in my fifth start the thing I'll be working on is focusing on my first inning."

It's all very simple for Matsuzaka this spring, and for those who are asked about him.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona can now talk about Matsuzaka's performances in generalities instead of being forced to dissect every nuance of them.

"I thought he stayed in his delivery better than he did last time, which is very encouraging," Francona said. "Again, we have to continue to remind ourselves, because we're leaving, that this is the middle of Spring Training. He's progressing the way he's supposed to."

The most intriguing story surrounding Matsuzaka these days is when his wife, Tomoyo, will deliver the couple's second child. It is believed that her due date coincides right around the time the Red Sox leave for Tokyo, which is Wednesday.

Will Matsuzaka be able to go back to his native country to pitch for his new team? Or will he be back in Boston welcoming is new son or daughter into the world?

Perhaps Matsuzaka will be able to do both. The second game in Tokyo isn't until March 26, which lends to the possibility that Matsuzaka could fly to Japan on his own.

The Red Sox, who have the utmost respect for Matsuzaka's privacy, aren't making any public predictions on the matter.

"We're not doing that," Francona said. "When we're ready to announce what we're doing, we will announce it. We're not going to speculate. We're not going to go centimeters on his wife and all that. When we're ready to announce what we're doing, we'll do it."

In the meantime, Matsuzaka will keep pitching. His next start is scheduled to be Wednesday's Grapefruit League finale against the Blue Jays.

Perhaps after that, he will get to pitch in Japan for the first time since he was a member of the Seibu Lions in 2006. Wearing that Boston Red Sox uniform in Tokyo would surely be a prideful moment for Matsuzaka and a joyous one for his many fans back home.

"For the Japanese fans who don't get to see us live every day, it will be a treat to be able to show them us in our uniforms," Matsuzaka said.

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

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }
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