Flu bug bites Dice-K

Flu bug bites Dice-K

BOSTON -- Another night, another Red Sox starter scratched just hours in advance of his start.

A day after ace Josh Beckett couldn't take the ball because of a combination of a stiff neck and the flu, No. 2 starter Daisuke Matsuzaka had to give up his start on Wednesday night against the Angels because of an illness that has spread around the team like wildfire in recent days.

Matsuzaka's flu was more sudden than Beckett's. The pitcher was thought to be good to go heading into the day, but the Red Sox learned a couple of hours before game time that he wouldn't be able to take the ball. Jon Lester subbed in his place on three days' rest for the first time in his career, and the Sox wound up losing, 6-4.

"[Batting practice is] usually the most relaxing time of the day where you can visit with the players and touch base with people," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "It turned a little hectic. Daisuke alerted us that he was feeling it, and it rapidly got worse, which has been happening."

Last May in Texas, Matsuzaka pitched through massive bouts of nausea and dehydration and beat the Rangers. So when he couldn't pitch on Wednesday, Francona knew it must have been serious.

Matsuzaka will likely just miss this turn in the rotation and pitch again on Tuesday at Fenway, when the Sox open a three-game series against the Blue Jays.

Francona has probably spent more time in the training room the past few days than in his office, as there has been a lot of illness to keep track of.

Wednesday marked the fourth straight day captain and catcher Jason Varitek was out of the lineup with, yes, the flu. Varitek won't start on Thursday either, though he might be available in the late innings.

Reliever Manny Delcarmen was sent home before Tuesday's game with the flu, and he didn't pitch on Wednesday either.

With David Pauley sent back to Triple-A Pawtucket immediately after filling in for Beckett, the Sox used the open roster spot to recall Craig Hansen from Triple-A.

However, Hansen was sent right back to the Minors after Wednesday's game -- in which he took the loss -- so that Justin Masterson can make his Major League debut in what was supposed to be Lester's start on Thursday. Masterson had been pitching for Double-A Portland.

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