The Sox announced Saturday that Dice K would not make his next scheduled start, which would have come Thursday.
Instead John Smoltz will make his first Red Sox start against the Nationals.
Matsuzaka underwent an MRI Saturday, and, while the news was good in terms of structural damage, the Sox said there was some “weakness,” and therefore Dice K will be shelved on the disabled list for the time being.
Francona again brought up the WBC and thinks that Dice K having to “ramp up” so early in the year is the main cause of his poor performance.
But is it?
Maybe it’s more than that. Maybe the WBC played a part, but maybe the problem lies more between Dice K’s ears, meaning his confidence in his own ability to pitch like he has in the past.
One of those is that it is in the third year that Japanese pitchers slide, pointing to the careers of Hideki Irabu, Kaz Ishi, Hideo Nomo, and Masato Toshii.
When he first arrived, Matsuzaka could get the fastball up in the 97-mph range. Lately, it averages around 91-92, with the occasional 94 that usually is no where near the strike zone.
Instead of the confident power pitcher we saw early in year one, we now see a nibbler lucky to get to the fifth inning before he reaches 100 pitches.
Francona has said this will not be a mere 15-day DL, that it would be a “long road” to try and get Dice K back to where he once was.
Fortunately, the Red Sox have depth in starting pitching, more than any other organization at this point.
Accordingly, this will enable them to take their time in getting Matsuzaka the treatment they feel is necessary, whatever that may be.
The program to strengthen the shoulder the Red Sox use has certainly helped Brad Penny, who said that had he not signed with the Red Sox and undergone their program, he probably would not be pitching.
In any case, Matsuzaka is under contract through the 2012 season, and it remains to be seen if he will be able to come back and become an important cog again in the Boston rotation.