Daisuke Matsuzaka: Should John Lackey Take a Lesson from His Expedited Return?

Christopher Benvie@CSBenvie81Correspondent IIJuly 4, 2012

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 26:  Daisuke Matsuzaka #18 of the Boston Red Sox leaves the game in the sixth inning against the the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning at Fenway Park June 26, 2012  in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Boston Red Sox fans may very well have seen the last of Daisuke Matsuzaka in a Red Sox uniform.

According to Alex Speier on WEEI.com, the Boston Red Sox have placed the 31-year-old Japanese pitcher on the disabled list after his paltry effort on July 2nd against the Oakland A's that saw him give up two home runs to former Red Sox players Josh Reddick and Brandon Moss.

The outing lasted a mere one inning, and Matsuzaka gave up four hits and five earned runs, garnering a 6.65 ERA.

When asked by reporters after the game, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine stated that Matsuzaka would be returning to the DL after suffering a recurrence of the discomfort in his right trapezius muscle at the base of the neck.

Yes, Matsuzaka is out from a pain in the neck. Is it not ironic that Red Sox Nation found stomaching his games to be a pain in the neck? Perhaps it's just a form of poetic justice.

The question is, did Matsuzaka return from his Tommy John surgery too early? 

According to WebMD.com, "Rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery usually takes about a year. In some cases, up to two years are needed for athletes to return to their previous level of ability."

Matsuzaka underwent his Tommy John surgery on June 11, 2011. In a report by NBC's Hardball Talk's Drew Silva, the anticipated window of recovery for a baseball player from Tommy John surgery is approximately 15 months or more.

Matsuzaka made his first major league start of the 2012 season on June 9th, less than one full year from his surgery date. Maybe this is a case of a pitcher over-extending himself in a contract year, or perhaps he did actually have a soreness in his neck. Fans may not know that answer right away.

If he does not return to pitch in Boston this season, I think the answer is clear.

This brings me to my greater point.

On the Red Sox official website, Evan Drellich noted that pitcher John Lackey could pitch again before the end of 2012, though not before the major league season ends.

The indication is that Lackey could throw some side sessions or perhaps even perform on a minor league level by the end of the year.

Lackey underwent his Tommy John surgery on November 1, 2011.

If this report is accurate, Lackey is well ahead of his rehabilitation schedule. The Boston Globe's Michael Vega has John Lackey quoted saying the following:

"It's been like 20 pitches so far, like 80 percent effort kind of deal,'' Lackey said. ''Long toss is the main thing for me right now, just trying to build my arm strength back up. I've got about two bullpens a week for about the next two months, so it's a long process.''

Lackey is optimistic about his progress thus far, going on to say:

"Yeah, there's been no setbacks, so it's been all positive,'' he said. "My arm feels great so it's definitely moving in the right direction. But it's going to be a while before I get into a game, for sure."

While the idea of getting a top of the rotation starter back for the Red Sox is obviously a positive thing, the concern Red Sox Nation has should be surrounding the speed in which these players are returning from their respective surgeries.

The 2012 season is a loss for him, which is fine. A corrective surgery is hopefully what the big righty needed to bring his 2011 6.41 ERA back down to earth moving forward.

However, in the event that he is rushing himself or being rushed to return, Lackey could see the opposite result, like in the case of Matsuzaka, whose 2011 ERA was 5.30 before being shut down.

Now, it rests at 6.65. Could John Lackey survive a 7.76 ERA in Boston? I'm not so sure he could.



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