After latest rehab start, Dice-K nearing return

After latest rehab start, Dice-K nearing return

After latest rehab start, Dice-K nearing return
BOSTON -- Daisuke Matsuzaka's best outing of the season anywhere came Tuesday night with Triple-A Pawtucket.

In his fifth rehab start on the way back from a trapezius strain, the Red Sox right-hander went seven-plus shutout innings, with seven strikeouts. That puts him in line to start with the big league club soon, perhaps on Sunday in Aaron Cook's spot.

"Much too early to figure that one out," manager Bobby Valentine said after Cook and the Red Sox lost to the Angels, 5-3, at Fenway Park on Tuesday. "We'll see what ... watch the film tomorrow, see Dice, see how he feels. Talk it over with everyone."

Dice-K took the win in a 3-0 home victory over Triple-A Rochester (Minnesota). He walked four, but two of those free passes came to his last two batters at the start of the eighth inning. He finished with 102 pitches, 59 for strikes.

In what is likely his last season with Boston, Dice-K is 0-3 with a 6.65 ERA in five starts. He's missed most of the season because of his recovery from Tommy John surgery and, subsequently, his trapezius. In four August starts for Pawtucket, the 31-year-old has a 3.10 ERA in 20 1/3 innings, with twice as many strikeouts (18) as walks (nine).

Cook gave up four earned runs in five innings Tuesday and has lost five of his past six starts, but he also has a 4.10 ERA in his past 10 starts since June 24.

The Minor League rehab clock for pitchers, 30 days, is not an issue for Matsuzaka because rosters expand Sept. 1.