Daisuke Matsuzaka Injury Keeps Red Sox in Scramble Mode


May 17, 2011

Daisuke Matsuzaka Injury Keeps Red Sox in Scramble Mode For a team in the midst of a four-game winning streak, which included a sweep in New York and a dramatic win in Fenway Park, and above .500 for the first time all year, the Red Sox are scrambling.

All of it involves the pitching staff, which remains in flux amid a rash of injuries.

Daisuke Matsuzaka was diagnosed with a sprained right elbow on Tuesday prior to the Baltimore-Boston game at Fenway Park being postponed due to rain. He will officially be placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, a move that will come two days after fellow right-hander John Lackey hit the DL with a right elbow strain.

Michael Bowden will take Matsuzaka's place on the active roster. Alfredo Aceves will take Matsuzaka's start Saturday at home against the Chicago Cubs. Tim Wakefield, who was scheduled to replace Lackey on Tuesday before the game was called, will now start Sunday vs. Chicago.

The full extent of Matsuzaka's injury is not yet known, nor is the timetable for his return. Manager Terry Francona said earlier in the day that he was hopeful that Lackey would return when he is eligible to come off the DL.

As those questions get answered in the coming days and weeks, there is nothing to do but look ahead.

"Yeah, it doesn't change anything in our view," Francona said of the back-to-back injuries and all the shuffling that has taken place since Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks hit the DL earlier in the month.

"We're going to get [Lackey] healthy and get him back out there as quick as we can. We're going to do the same thing with Daisuke. Until we do, we're going to try to win with somebody else. That's the way we always feel."

Fortunately, the process of winning is always easier when Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are on the mound, which is the case for the next three games, weather permitting. Once Saturday arrives, Wheeler is expected to be activated from the DL, which will add more depth to a bullpen that is forced to pick up the slack once again.

As for Matsuzaka, who did not meet with reporters, it's the latest setback in a Red Sox career now dotted with physical issues. This latest scenario began to surface in a start against Seattle on April 29 in which Matsuzaka left in the fifth with elbow tightness.

In the wake of that outing, Matsuzaka was forced to make his first career relief appearance in a 13-inning, middle-of-the-night loss against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and didn't make his next start until May 8. The righty went six innings in that one before being skipped in the rotation due to an off-day in the schedule. He returned Monday against the Orioles, only to struggle mightily.

Matsuzaka walked seven and gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings. It was obvious to many on hand that he was holding back.

"The reason we did this is he was guarded against .. did he have pain?" Francona said of getting an MRI in the first place. "I don't know that he really did, but I think he was guarded because he felt that he might have pain."

This is the sixth time that Matsuzaka has hit the DL since the start of the 2008 season.

The shuffling puts more pressure on the bullpen as its roles become altered and its innings potentially increase. Francona said he is pleased that he can pluck guys like Aceves and Wakefield from the group and utilize them in a pinch, with a strong degree of confidence.

"I think we're pretty fortunate. Wake's been doing it since I've been a kid," Francona joked. "Aceves … that's why we signed him. We think he can go out there and do a good job."

Francona added that Wakefield may be able to get an inning or so in a game over the next few days as he prepares for Sunday's start.

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