03/31/07 5:19 PM ET
Matsuzaka trying to retain control
Starter limiting opponents' hits, but walks are a problem
By Andy Jasner / Special to MLB.com
"I feel like I have a good grasp of the Major League strike zone," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. "As far as the number of walks, I don't think it's related to the strike zone."
In Matsuzaka's last Grapefruit League start, he gave up no hits in five innings but walked five. In Saturday's 7-5 victory in the final On-Deck Series game against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, he surrendered three runs on just two hits, including a two-run homer by Pat Burrell. Matsuzaka struck out seven and walked four in four innings while throwing 82 pitches, 51 for strikes.
"I thought he wasn't commanding like he will," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He has a very good way, even in an exhibition game, of competing and making pitches. We wanted him going into his [next start] feeling good, and he did."
Matsuzaka opened the game by walking Jimmy Rollins and Aaron Rowand. In the first inning, Matsuzaka threw 26 pitches, 14 for strikes.
Amazingly, in 186 1/3 innings for the Seibu Lions last season, Matsuzaka struck out 200 and allowed only 34 walks.
Was he nervous on Saturday?
"I didn't feel probably nervous for any reason," Matsuzaka said. "I'm glad I had the opportunity to throw in a big-league park before the season."
On Friday, Francona said he expected Matsuzaka to throw 45-55 pitches. But that philosophy was changed a bit on Saturday.
"After two innings, [pitching coach] John Farrell came up to me in the dugout with the intent of having me finish the spring on a really strong note," Matsuzaka said. "He told me I'd be finishing the spring on a strong note."
Now that Spring Training is officially over, Matsuzaka can focus on his first Major League start on Thursday in Kansas City. He'll oppose Zach Greinke in the third game of the opening series.
Long before the first pitch, Matsuzaka will be very familiar with the Royals lineup.
"They weren't included in the first set of DVDs," he said. "I received the next set of DVDs, and I've gone through the batting order three times on my own."
More importantly, Matsuzaka says he's prepared for the rigorous season. He altered his conditioning routine, but wouldn't elaborate exactly what that meant.
"As far as my physical condition, I changed up my routine just a little bit," Matsuzaka said. "The result was what I expected based on the changes. ... I wasn't too concerned with lack of control or anything like that."
As usual, a large Japanese media contingent was on hand for Matsuzaka's start. There were 17 writers, six still photographers, one radio reporter and 21 media members representing six different Japanese television networks.
Andy Jasner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.