Justin Masterson Primed For Success With Red Sox After Identifying Flaws


Jan 26, 2015

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Justin Masterson is a lottery ticket for the Boston Red Sox. The odds of winning on that lottery ticket look better every day.

Masterson, an All-Star in 2013, had a disappointing 2014 marred by both injuries and mechanical issues. The right-hander now is healthy and confident he’s fixed the flaws that contributed greatly to last season’s drop-off with the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals.

“I think I had gotten into bad habits because I had no rotation (in my delivery),” Masterson said Saturday at the Red Sox’s Baseball Winter Weekend at Foxwoods Resort Casino. “What was actually great about the end of the year with St. Louis was that I was able to satisfy a few of those issues.

“Like the last month of the year I was able to start retraining my muscle memory throwing-wise and be like, ‘OK, this is what I’m supposed to do,’ because we started understanding about getting more rotation and other things.”

Knee, oblique and shoulder issues certainly were problematic for Masterson, who finished last season with a 7-9 record and 5.88 ERA in 28 appearances (25 starts) split between Cleveland and St. Louis. His velocity reached new lows and his secondary stuff suffered as a result. The pitcher attempted to overcompensate for his physical limitations, which in turn created a snowball effect.

“For me, there was no real pain pain. So I’m like, ‘OK, something’s not right, but I can’t really tell you what it is,’” Masterson said. “That was the difficulty when I was in Cleveland because I couldn’t really pinpoint anything because I couldn’t say, ‘Hey, this kills.’

“Then throughout some testing and stuff, we were able to figure it out. That’s why it was frustrating for me. I’m like, ‘This is not fun and I don’t know what’s happening, but there’s something wrong.’”

Masterson is pleased with the progress he’s made this winter after pinpointing where, how and why everything went off the tracks in 2014. He’s been doing physical therapy three days a week and plans to arrive at spring training early to begin throwing off a mound. As disastrous as last season was for Masterson, his confidence hasn’t wavered.

“2013 was so good that we have an understanding of who I am and what I can be and what will be good,” said Masterson, who was drafted by the Red Sox in 2006. “So it’s really just making sure that as I start throwing, which I’m doing now, that I just remember what I was doing before: make sure to stay tall and those types of things.”

The confidence is shared by Masterson’s new manager and former pitching coach, John Farrell.

“When you think about 2013, this is an All-Star pitcher, a No. 1, a No. 2-type starter in the American League and a guy who has recently done it,” Farrell said. “We feel like the ability for him to bounce back to that type of season is very, very capable.”

Masterson has a lot riding on this season after signing a one-year, $9.5 million contract with the Red Sox last month. A solid campaign could yield him a multiyear contract next offseason and play a huge role in Boston’s 2015 success.

“For me, there’s not really that much pressure,” Masterson said of inking a one-year pact. “I mean I guess in one sense it is kind of fun because you’ve got to go out and do your thing, and that’s really what I want to do. On the outward sense, no one can put more pressure on me than I already do on myself.”

The Red Sox were willing to bet on someone who is familiar with the organization and who has a track record of success. It’s hard to fault the gamble, particularly given the low risk and potentially high reward.

Thumbnail photo via Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images

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