There is no denying one absolute truth: Daisuke Matsuzaka got hammered in the first inning of last night’s rehab start in Manchester, NH.
The question is: how much stock should we place in that inning?
In the press box and in the dugout, it was obvious that there was something wrong during the first inning. His mechanics seemed out of whack and he seemed to be slinging the ball. His leg kick was not the same leg kick. He was timid. And, most telling, he was hitting 88-89 mph on the radar gun.
Between the first and second innings, he conferred in the dugout with Portland manager Arnie Beyeler and pitching coach Mike Cather. Sea Dogs trainer John Joakim listened in on the conversation. The original plan had been for Dice-K to throw about 50 pitches…during the meeting it was decided he could have another 10 pitches in the second inning.
When he came out in the second inning he just LOOKED different. His delivery looked more fluid. He was driving his right arm through more forcefully. The radar gun read 94-95 mph. He needed only nine pitches to retire the side in order.
Granted, he was facing Double-A hitters, but anyone who knows baseball and is more than a casual observer of the sport saw something from Matsuzaka in the second inning that gives us hope moving forward (right, Kevin from Manchester?).
It is true Dice-K got hit hard in the first inning, but I have a suspicion that he will take that second inning to the hill on Friday night in Pawtucket and that the results will be improved…
…maybe even significantly improved.
In his post-game press conference, he said that he is still a work in progress—that he will continue to make adjustments moving forward. Of the rough first inning, he said: “I think I got into the game at about 60 percent—70 percent of maximum output. That’s how I was approaching (the outing). There were a few things I wanted to work on and that’s why I wanted to get into the game gradually. Mind you, I didn’t think that I’d get hit quite that hard".
"In the second inning I was able to apply a few of the things I was working on in the first, I was able to get after it and get my arm around really hard, and that was a very positive step for me. I feel like in my next start I’ll be able to do that right from the beginning of the game…”
Of the leg kick he employed in the first inning, he said: “The leg kick I was using was certainly not something I would use in a game. It’s an extension of something I have been working on in practice…I am just working on different ways of using my legs and my lower half. It was more of an attempt to prevent myself from diving too far forward and getting ahead of myself.”
He added: “Right now I’m not too worried about the results againt each individual hitter. What’s more important right now is that I’m able to feel and grasp those gradual steps in each game and feel like I’m making progress in each start. Compared to my previous start, I really feel like I took some positive steps.”