Daisuke Masuzaka May Need to Overcome Physical, Mental Hurdles to Fully Come Back From Tommy John Surgery

Daisuke Masuzaka May Need to Overcome Physical, Mental Hurdles to Fully Come Back From Tommy John SurgeryAfter six years, Daisuke Matsuzaka's career with the Red
Sox could be on the precipice of ending.

With the right-hander's contract up at the end of this season, the Red Sox may very well part
ways with Matsuzaka. So it's only
fitting that the Japanese hurler will make the final start of the rollercoaster
2012 season for Boston.

"There weren't a lot of options," Red Sox
manager Bobby Valentine told reporters in New York on Tuesday. "I didn't know of any options, first off. I
figured that we had six guys who were going to pitch at the end here and it was
either [Zach] Stewart pitched the last game or Daisuke pitched the last game. I
felt with extra rest, he'd have the best chance of being the best he could
be."

Matsuzaka's season has been quite the enigma — like his
career. In 10 starts and 43 1/3 innings, he's compiled a 1-6 record with a 7.68
ERA while walking 19 batters and striking out 39.

The mediocre numbers are partly attributed to Matsuzaka's
lengthy recovery from Tommy John surgery. After missing the majority of the
2011 season, he returned to the mound in June, but subsequently dealt with neck
stiffness that required another stint on the disabled list.

Although Matsuzaka is back to pitching, Valentine
believes the 32-year-old hasn't physically and mentally recovered from that procedure.

"This year, I didn't know what to expect coming back
from an injury," Valentine said. "He hasn't, I don't think, fully
recovered. He says he has and the training room says he has, but I still think
there's a little mental hurdle [that he] has to get over that's very similar –
and I don't want to just lump Japanese guys into one category — but in spring
training [Junichi] Tazawa had a mental hurdle to get over and he wasn't
throwing the ball the way he was capable of. And then one day he broke through.
And I think the same thing happens with everyone coming back from injury."

The offseason may certainly do Matsuzaka some good.

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