Daisuke Matsuzaka took another step toward a full return from back and neck issues when he threw to eight hitters in an intra-squad scrimmage Sunday at the Red Sox Player Development Complex.
In a 32-pitch session, Matsuzaka walked one, struck out one, induced five ground balls and one fly out. He threw 18 pitches for strikes and reported no issues with his previous ailments.
"I feel I'm gradually getting closer and closer to the real thing," Matsuzaka said through interpreter Masa Hoshino.
After a bullpen session on Tuesday, the "real thing" should occur Friday when Matsuzaka follows Tim Wakefield on the mound in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at City of Palms Park.
Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell said that Matsuzaka will likely throw three innings in that contest, but could not project the right-hander's schedule too far beyond that.
"I think it's too early to tell," Farrell said when asked when Matsuzaka might be ready to pitch in the regular season. "There's still a lot of decisions yet to be made here in camp, not just as it pertains to Daisuke, but everything else involving our pitching staff.
"But he's doing everything he can in making steps to begin to factor into [the staff] at some point."
In Sunday's session, Matsuzaka was throwing to strong-armed catching prospect Luis Exposito, who also caught Clay Buchholz's start at the complex on Thursday. Matsuzaka walked the second man he faced, shortstop Jason Thompson, but he was promptly erased on a double play.
The right-hander retired all five men he faced in the second "inning," the last two of which were sent up to get Matsuzaka some more work before calling it quits.
Matsuzaka was able to throw all of his pitches and his fastball was in the 88-91 mph range, according to Farrell, a velocity that pleased the coach.
"In this setting that is a positive step over what he demonstrated four days ago [in a batting practice session]," Farrell said.
If there are no setbacks, Matsuzaka will be in a regular five-day rotation starting with Friday's appearance, according to Farrell.
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