Daisuke Matsuzaka cut short a batting practice session today due to a neck strain, an injury unrelated to the right-hander's previous issues with his back, according to Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
The setback appears to be minor and the team will see how Matsuzaka feels when he arrives at the park Sunday. The 29-year-old was scheduled to throw in a minor-league exhibition game Wednesday.
"I didn't throw live BP today due to stiffness in my neck," Matsuzaka said in a statement. "As for my schedule going forward I'm going to see how I feel tomorrow, meet with the coaching staff and decide at that point."
Francona said that Matsuzaka threw about five or six pitches in front of pitching coach John Farrell before calling it quits.
"His neck kind of spasmed on him, so he talked to John Farrell and decided to shut it down," Francona said. "So we'll go kind of day-to-day on it. He came in and got it worked on. We'll wait and see how he shows up tomorrow and when he feels good we'll repeat what we were going to do today. I don't know if that will be tomorrow, the next day. We'll just see how it feels."
Francona insisted this is a new issue for Matsuzaka and should not hinder his recovery from the back injury.
"I don't think it's anything besides a stiff neck. I don't know that we need to be conservative, as long as he's OK.
If he's not comfortable, that wouldn't be a good thing."
The Sox skipper was also asked what this means for Matsuzaka's chances of avoiding the disabled list when the regular season begins.
"I don't think opening day was the end all, be all," Francona said. "We just wanted to get him ready. I don't think that's the biggest decision we have right now. We just want to get him out on the mound and get him going so we can get him stretched out."
With each setback the likelihood increases that Matsuzaka will open the season on the disabled list. While not ideal, that would help the team avoid having to make a choice between him, Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield for the two spots in the rotation behind Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey.
It is situations such as this which warrant cliches about never having enough pitching.
"Things have a way of taking care of themselves and if they don't, and I'm not trying to sound unfeeling, but I'd rather have someone be aggravated than not have enough pitching," Francona added. "Sometimes you have to be patient. At the same time, if you don't have enough pitching, it doesn't work."
Around the time Matsuzaka's session was being stopped, Buchholz was throwing three scoreless innings in a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh. He allowed one hit, struck out two and walked one.
Buchholz was reached for three runs on five hits in two innings in his first spring start Sunday.