It’s hard to overstate Daisuke Matsuzaka’s impact on baseball in Japan, where an entire generation of players is nicknamed the “Matsuzaka era” after the right-hander who helped the Boston Red Sox win the 2007 World Series and led Team Japan to the 2006 World Baseball Classic title.
But those days seem long ago now.
Matsuzaka will not be in the opening-day rotation for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, whom he joined late last season in an attempt to resurrect his career in Japan. Despite pitching seven innings of a combined no-hitter in a preseason game Saturday, Matsuzaka has struggled with his control and entered that game with 10 walks and two hit batters in 11 1/3 preseason innings, according to The Japan Times.
Matsuzaka gave up two hard-hit balls Saturday against the Hiroshima Carp but told the Times the no-hitter held up “only… because the fielders caught all those balls for me.” And while that probably was an attempt at humility, it also speaks to where Matsuzaka’s stuff and mindset is at 36 years old.
Matsuzaka last played in Major League Baseball in 2014, when he pitched 83 1/3 innings for the New York Mets, going 3-3 with a 3.89 earned run average. He made one appearance in Nippon Professional Baseball last season, allowing five runs, three hits and two walks with a wild pitch in one inning of work for the Hawks.
Thumbnail photo via H.Darr Beiser/USA TODAY Sports Images