As a manager who speaks Japanese — after living in Japan and managing in the Nippon Professional League — the assumption was that Valentine would have the potential to coach and motivate Daisuke Matsuzaka in ways that former skipper Terry Francona couldn’t.
On the eve of Matsuzaka’s first start in a year, Valentine downplayed the notion that his language skills would have an impact on the Japanese hurler.
“I don’t know why it would be a factor either way,” Valentine said. “Maybe that I can say hello to him when he comes in or ‘How do you feel’ in Japanese [or] ‘How many more pitches do you want to throw’ in Japanese?
“I think it’s all the same. I think he understands anything I want to say in either language in baseball-ese.”
Regardless of which language they speak, Matsuzaka is simply excited to return to the majors. After undergoing elbow surgery last June, the 31-year-old has rehabbed aggressively in Fort Myers to prepare for this point.
Through eight rehab starts in the minors –– from Single-A to Triple-A –– Matsuzaka posted a 3.65 ERA and allowed 15 runs through 37 innings. In the process, he struck out 30 batters and only walked nine.
With his well-awaited return looming, Matsuzaka is antsy to soak up the atmosphere at Fenway Park.
“Saturday’s game will be a special game,” Matsuzaka said in a statement. “It represents a new step for me. It is going to be a very emotional day, but I have to remain calm and treat it like any other start I have had throughout my career.”
It’ll be his first start in the majors since May 16, 2011, when he surrendered five runs to the Orioles in a no-decision.