Daisuke Matsuzaka Unlikely to Be Ready for Opening DayDaisuke Matsuzaka took a step toward full health on Monday, as the 29-year-old righty threw off a mound for the first time this spring.

After announcing that he had a sore back at the beginning of camp, Matsuzaka has been a bit behind in his offseason preparation, but Monday’s work was seen as a positive sign — especially by manager Terry Francona.

“Dice had a great day,” Francona told the media on Monday. “He ended up getting more aggressive, way out there, [throwing from] 180, 200 [feet], finished up on the mound. That was about a good a day as you could have. I don’t think you can throw the ball like that and not be totally healthy.”

Francona “essentially admitted,” though, according to The Boston Globe, that Matsuzaka will not be ready for the start of the season. If Matsuzaka follows the normal pattern of pitcher preparation for the season, he will not see game action for at least another week.

That will put his availability to begin the season in jeopardy. That’s OK with the Red Sox.

With days off in the schedule factored in at the start of the season, the Red Sox do not need a fifth starter until April 18. If Boston chooses to open the year with a strict five-man rotation, Tim Wakefield would be in line for a couple starts until Matsuzaka is prepared to begin the season.

Either way, the Red Sox are not desperate to have Dice-K in the fold on April 4, the beginning of the season.

The mound session was not a true side session because the catcher was standing up, but Francona said he expects Matsuzaka will be ready to pitch off a mound by the end of the week.