Daisuke Matsuzaka Surgery: Boston Red Sox Career Hangs in the Balance

Jeffrey BrownAnalyst IJune 2, 2011

BOSTON, MA - MAY 08: Daisuke Matsuzaka #18 of the Boston Red Sox delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins on May 8, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Red Sox RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka and team officials will meet tomorrow to discuss the pitcher’s options with respect to his injured right elbow.

Several published reports this evening have indicated Matsuzaka has already decided to have Tommy John surgery to repair a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, and that he will use tomorrow’s meeting to inform team officials of his decision. Other reports have indicated the ballclub (read: manager Terry Francona) believes there is still room for discussion as to how to proceed from here.

Nikkan Sports of Japan was the first media outlet to report that Matsuzaka and agent Scott Boras have already decided to have the surgery.

Red Sox medical director Dr. Tom Gill and orthopedic specialist Lewis Youcum both reportedly found that Matsuzaka has a slight tear in the ulnar collateral. Reports differ on the extent of the injury.

Some say Gill found a slight tear while ESPNBoston.com has stated Yocum discovered a “significant” tear.

The pitcher has two options: 1) to see if some extended down time and an exercise regimen to strengthen the muscles around the elbow can solve the problem, or 2) to undergo surgery.

While the Red Sox front office and the pitcher may be on the same team, right now they have different and competing interests, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. The bottom line right now is that these differing interests have nothing to do with baseball or what happens between the foul lines; rather, it has to do with contracts, money, free agency and GREED.

Dice-K is under contract until the end of next season. The Red Sox have gotten only a marginal return on the $100-plus million investment they made in him and obviously would like to keep him on the mound if at all possible.

If he has surgery, he will miss (at least) the next 12 months, and possibly as much as the next 15 months. So the club will want him to try the R&R approach in the hope he can return to the mound sometime during the second half of the 2011 season, in the hope they will be able to obtain some additional return on investment.

Of course, it is also possible that R&R won’t work and that he will still need surgery later this year. There are no guarantees.

It's worth noting that Matsuzaka’s countryman, Junichi Tazawa, underwent the procedure in March of last year. He missed all of last year and the start of this season. He recently began a rehab assignment in the lower minor leagues and could be ready to help the major league club by LATE this year.

On the other hand, there is the pitcher’s camp, headed by Boras. If they are convinced surgery is necessary, they will want to do so at the earliest opportunity. They will hope to get him through rehab and back on the mound by midseason 2012, so that he has a chance to show the baseball world that he is healthy as he approaches free agency at the end of next season.

If he delays surgery and tries an R&R approach, and it doesn’t work out, then it is possible he will not be able to return to the diamond until the start of the 2013 season and that would KILL any value he has as a free agent next year.

And knowing Boras, THAT would be unacceptable as it would cost Dice-K (and Boras) lots of money.

So while the Red Sox would like Matsuzaka to take the more conservative approach, the pitcher and his agent will almost certainly want to be as aggressive as possible.

So, who wins out? The player, whose body it is, or the ballclub, who is paying him for the rest of this year and next year?

This evening, a Red Sox source said that no determination had been made. Is that true, or a case of wishful thinking?

We will likely find out sometime tomorrow afternoon.