Farrell, Sox seek openness from Matsuzaka
At this point in their relationship with Daisuke Matsuzaka, it’s difficult to say that the Red Sox have confidence in the communication. Having been twice burned - when Matsuzaka made comments last summer about his training regimen in the United States, and a week ago when a Japanese magazine published an interview in which he disclosed an injury suffered prior to the 2009 World Baseball Classic - it’s understandable that pitching coach John Farrell shied away from definitive statements about whether this might happen again.
“I think the one thing that we strive to do, and go to great lengths, is to put a player in the best position possible to have success,’’ Farrell said before last night’s Boston Baseball Writers Association dinner, “and that takes an openness on all parts to accomplish that.’’
Farrell confirmed that the Sox found out about the groin injury only when the article was published, long after such knowledge could have helped them with Matsuzaka’s fractured 2009 season.
In the interview, translated by the Globe’s Daigo Fujiwara, Matsuzaka admitted that he hurt his right groin last January during hip strengthening exercises, which caused him to consider pulling out of the WBC. He did not, taking anti-inflammatories to treat the pain.
“Fortunately I was in charge of my own training, so if it started to hurt, I could adjust to not hurt myself,’’ Matsuzaka was quoted as saying. “But pitching while hiding the injury was very difficult. Even when I didn’t feel the pain, my body was holding back because it sensed the danger.’’
Matsuzaka said he gained weight because he wasn’t able to run with the injury. His conditioning was a major point of contention with the Sox last season, as they had Matsuzaka spend much of the summer in Fort Myers, Fla., working on his training.
And while it appeared that the Sox and Matsuzaka had come to an understanding after that point, the recent article might have been a step back.
“I think when it comes out after the fact, there is some [frustration] there, but I know that as a competitor he wanted to be on the mound and he didn’t want any other distractions,’’ Farrell said. “Let’s put it this way: If he felt that he couldn’t pitch because of it, that clearly would have come out at the time.
“We didn’t see anything in video. We didn’t see anything in his delivery. There was some reference, at times when he didn’t fully finish or have a follow-through that was similar. But I thought that to be more core strength, [rather] than the groin, as a possibility. That was just my own evaluation.
“But I think, based on the challenges that we dealt with and the obstacles that were overcome physically, I think we’re moving toward a more open and consistent line of communication.’’
Matsuzaka went 4-6 last season with a 5.76 ERA, a far inferior performance to his first two years in Boston, when he went a combined 33-15. He spent two long stints on the disabled list, returning in September. He said the injury affected him much of the season, as he couldn’t use his lower body to generate power. But, Farrell said, there’s no way to know whether that was the true cause of his struggles.
“How much it affected him is hard to say, because by not being aware of it, you provide feedback with the thought of how you evaluate him in games, how you evaluate his video,’’ Farrell said. “[You] give him feedback in areas that you are discussing, whether it’s a mechanical issue or whether it’s the current condition with his shoulder.
“With those things in mind, you set up a plan to address those. If there was something that was not included in that, then that would have obviously been omitted.
“There’s no denying on either side the culture that he has grown up in both on and off the field is different than ours, there’s no doubt about that. We will continue to work toward putting him in a situation to have success - and part of that is continuing to work hard at communicating to be as clear and direct as we can.’’
Matsuzaka has spent part of the offseason training at Athletes’ Performance in Arizona, and the Sox have been getting positive reports on his progress. They are going into 2010 with six starters - Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Tim Wakefield, and Matsuzaka - with the belief (and hope) that Matsuzaka will be far closer in results to the first two years of his tenure in Boston than the last one.
“He’s in a great frame of mind,’’ said Farrell, who spoke with Matsuzaka Sunday. “The workout program at AP has gone very well. He is extremely motivated to have a year reminiscent of ’07 and ’08 here with us.
“I think the way he finished up the year and the starts he got at the end of the season allowed him to go into the offseason, allowed us to go into the offseason knowing he was healthy, that we could plan with him as a main part of all those plans from a health standpoint.’’
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.