After rough start, smooth sailing for rookie
Junichi Tazawa was probably wondering what’s up with the major leagues?
In Friday’s 15-inning marathon against the Yankees he surrendered a two-run walkoff homer to Alex Rodriguez. Then in his first major league start, he allowed three runs (one earned) in the first inning last night when Nick Green made a bad throw and couldn’t turn an inning-ending double-play.
Then an all-out brawl broke out.
Welcome to the majors, kid.
“I was just coming back to the bench and I was really surprised,’’ Tazawa said through his interpreter. “I really didn’t know what was happening.’’ He confirmed it was his first brawl ever, in the Japanese industrial league or minor leagues.
After allowing three runs in the first inning he said, “I was unsure. I just thought that I need to keep pitching the way I know how to do.’’
While he was happy about his first win, he got a big kick out of pitching at Fenway Park.
“As soon as I signed with the Red Sox, I was thinking about the day that I pitch here,’’ he said. “It is really a nice ballpark, and I was very excited about it.’’
After the game authenticators from the Hall of Fame were making official various items from the game. Brad Penny was able to get him the winning ball.
“Trainer Masai Takahashi warned me that [closer Jonathan] Papelbon may throw the ball [into the stands], so I was kind of on the look out for it, but didn’t know how to get it. Brad Penny gave me the ball and I have no idea how he ended up with it, but I am just glad that I have it.’’
Tazawa lasted five innings and allowed three runs, one earned, on four hits with six strikeouts and two walks.
“I didn’t expect to be in the major leagues and I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. Things have been just leveling up very fast for me. I [didn’t] think I would get a win and I’m very happy that I did.’’
Wakefield has never made a rehab start in the minors. He pitched for Pawtucket in 1995 when the Red Sox first obtained him off the Pirates’ scrap heap, but for the most part he has rejected the idea of a rehab start when coming off an injury. Not this time.
Manager Terry Francona thinks it’s a good idea to have him go three or four innings to test his sore calf, which affects him on cover plays at first base. Wakefield seems to be on board with the plan.
Meanwhile, Daisuke Matsuzaka also got a step closer with a 40-pitch bullpen session yesterday in Fort Myers, Fla. Matsuzaka will escalate to 55 pitches in three days and 65 pitches three days after that. Yesterday, he threw only fastballs; in the next two sessions, he will throw all of his pitches.
For his Pawtucket start, Wakefield will have his usual catcher, George Kottaras, who will begin a rehab assignment with the team the same day.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.