Dice-K, Bonser pitch in simulated game

Dice-K, Bonser pitch in simulated game

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Though it is the home stretch of camp, where most pitchers are polishing up before Opening Day, two Red Sox right-handers in a different position got their work in over at the Minor League complex on Monday.

Daisuke Matsuzaka and Boof Bonser faced hitters in a simulated game, with no fielders behind them.

Matsuzaka is all but certain to start the season on the disabled list after being pushed back early in camp by upper back woes. Bonser, who missed all of last season following right rotator cuff and labrum surgery and is currently fighting through some right groin tightness, is also highly likely to be on the DL when the season starts.

That said, it was a productive exercise for the two pitchers. Matsuzaka reeled off 62 pitches, 41 of which were strikes.

"Compared to my last outing, I felt that I was able to get more on every pitch, more consistently, and I definitely think that it was a step forward," said Matsuzaka through interpreter Masa Hoshino. "It's a little different in terms of intensity, throwing here vs. throwing in a Major League Spring Training game. I felt that I couldn't really look to the hitters today to see how well I was doing. But more, I had to look at each pitch and see how I felt about each one."

Matsuzaka will pitch on Saturday for the Red Sox in Washington against the Nationals in relief of Tim Wakefield and then start a Minor League rehab assignment that should land him in Boston's rotation a few weeks later.

"Good intensity," Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell said of Dice-K. "With each outing, we're seeing his arm strength improve or increase based on the sharpness of his breaking stuff. As far as fastball velocity, today was consistent with the first outing he had down here in an intrasquad game. Typical, the second outing wasn't as powerful. But today, he regained that level of velocity. Again, that's not everything that we're measuring things on. It's the overall pitch assortment, the overall command. Just with his intensity and looseness in his delivery, today was a solid 60-pitch work day for him."

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Bonser, who last pitched one week ago, threw 56 pitches, 42 for strikes. He will pitch next on Saturday in a Minor League game in Florida. Given that the Red Sox will be visiting the Nationals that day, it is pretty evident that Bonser will start the season on some type of rehab program.

"Well, he's not going to go Friday with us," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We're trying to use caution. I think he's doing well. I think we feel like there's some hesitation still. John said maybe when he was coming up in his delivery. We don't want to hurt him. We're trying to use very good judgment with him."

Heading into their final few days in Florida, the Red Sox made some more roster moves before Monday night's game against the Rays. Catcher Dusty Brown and infielder Kevin Frandsen were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. Infielder Jose Jimenez and catcher Gustavo Molina were reassigned to Minor League camp. Frandsen was acquired in a trade with the Giants last week.

Boston now has 35 players left in Major League camp. Because Matsuzaka and Bonser are among those 35, there are essentially eight more cuts for the Sox to make before Opening Night against the Yankees on Sunday.

Francona let all position players left in camp know where they stand. Assuming Mike Lowell, who started Monday night against the Rays, gets enough reps in the rest of the week, the bench is set. The Sox are expected to carry Lowell, Bill Hall, Jeremy Hermida and Jason Varitek as their four reserves.

The pitching situation is less certain, where there are four relievers fighting for two jobs. The battle appears to be down to lefties Alan Embree and Scott Schoeneweis, and right-handers Joe Nelson and Scott Atchison.

Embree and Schoeneweis were both late additions to camp and have out clauses on April 15, meaning the Sox have the option of having them pitch in the Minors until then if they choose. That is a more realistic path to take with Embree, who hadn't been pitching for anyone until signing with the Sox on March 20, than Schoeneweis, who was with the Brewers until last week.

Those final bullpen decisions could come down to the end of this week, according to Francona.

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