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03/19/08 6:09 PM ET

Delay shifts Dice-K to Minors game

Right-hander remains on track to pitch Opening Day vs. A's

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With the Red Sox's Wednesday afternoon game against the Blue Jays at City of Palms Park delayed because of a dispute over stipends to Boston's coaches and staff for the upcoming Tokyo trip, scheduled starter Daisuke Matsuzaka headed over to the team's Minor League complex.

Matsuzaka went six innings against Minnesota's Triple-A Rochester squad, giving up a run on six hits -- including a home run -- and a walk, striking out eight. He threw 78 pitches, 50 for strikes.

"Everything was fine today," Matsuzaka said of his Minor League outing. "My Spring Training is finished, and it was better than last year. My confidence is better."

The pitcher said the change in plans caused by the delay in the big league game did not affect him.

"It didn't bother me. I just had to do my own thing," he said.

Matsuzaka, who was 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA last season, is expected to be the Opening Day starter when the Sox face the A's in Tokyo on March 25.

"This was a great opportunity for Daisuke to go down and pitch in a little bit more relaxed atmosphere," Sox pitching coach John Farrell said. "I thought he repeated his delivery well [and had] probably the best command of the baseball that he had all spring.

"Again, we're seeing the uptick in the velocity a little bit. He sat 90, 91 [mph], which is on the higher end of the range that he's shown all spring. But it was a chance that he could go out and get up and down six times, and I think really allows him to be in a good spot for making the Opening Day start."

Farrell expects Matsuzaka to pitch six innings, making 85 to 90 pitches, in his Opening Day start.

"I think that would be a very good night's work for him, in the first start," Farrell said.

Right-hander David Aardsma took Matsuzaka's place in the Major League game, going two scoreless innings against the Jays, allowing two hits and a walk.

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.