Matsuzaka joining Lackey on disabled list

Red Sox fan Brooks Fletcher, 9, came all the way from Lake Placid, N.Y., only to be disappointed with a rainout yesterday. Red Sox fan Brooks Fletcher, 9, came all the way from Lake Placid, N.Y., only to be disappointed with a rainout yesterday. (Bill Greene/Globe Staff)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 18, 2011

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In a span of roughly 24 hours, the Red Sox lost 40 percent of their rotation.

Daisuke Matsuzaka was diagnosed with a sprained ligament in his right elbow yesterday and will be placed on the 15-day disabled list today, joining John Lackey.

Alfredo Aceves will come out of the bullpen to start against the Chicago Cubs Saturday, with Tim Wakefield scheduled for Sunday.

“Obviously, we’re in a little bit of a state of flux. We have some moving parts,’’ said manager Terry Francona after last night’s game against the Orioles was rained out.

This will be Matsuzaka’s sixth stint on the disabled list in four years; he previously was shelved with injuries to his shoulder, neck, and forearm. He was injured this time on April 29 while pitching against Seattle. In his three appearances since then, Matsuzaka has allowed 11 earned runs on 13 hits and 10 walks over 11 1/3 innings.

Matsuzaka lasted just 4 1/3 innings against Baltimore Monday, giving up five runs on five hits and seven walks. He seemed hesitant to throw his fastball, and when he did, it was not with his customary velocity. He was given an MRI yesterday to determine the extent of his problem.

“We’re talking about his elbow, whether it’s sore or whether he’s afraid to get to a point where it will get sore,’’ said Francona. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out.’’

Matsuzaka will be shut down for an indefinite period.

“If you put a time period out there, that’s not fair to Daisuke,’’ said Francona. “The doctors don’t even know.’’

Matsuzaka was not made available to reporters yesterday. Lackey also declined an interview request a day after he was placed on the disabled list with what the team termed an elbow strain. Lackey also has been dealing with strains in his personal life related to the health of his wife.

Despite the injuries, the Red Sox have won four straight games and seven of their last nine. After a 2-10 start, they have won 19 of 29. Now the goal will be to maintain that level of play with two starting pitchers out.

Given how poorly Matsuzaka and Lackey have pitched to date — a combined 5-8 with a 6.69 ERA — the Sox may even benefit from the switch.

“It doesn’t change anything in our view,’’ Francona said. “We’re going to get Lack 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 and win with somebody else. That’s the way we always feel.’’

Aceves has been hoping for a chance to start. The 28-year-old righthander from Mexico is 15-1 with a 3.14 ERA over parts of four major league seasons. He has pitched well in relief this season, allowing five earned runs on 12 hits over 17 1/3 innings.

Aceves was released by the Yankees in December and signed with the Sox just before the start of spring training.

“Why not?’’ he said when asked about his new assignment. “Everybody is involved in this team and this organization to try and get a championship and win.’’

Aceves has started five games in the majors, the last coming on July 9, 2009.

“We’ve sort of maybe wanted to see what he could do as a starter,’’ said Francona. “That’s why we signed him. Every time we keep sending him down, we tell him to get stretched out because we might need a starter. We don’t like the reasons why. But I think we’ll be OK.’’

Aceves has not pitched more than five innings in a game this season, and that was for Triple A Pawtucket on April 29. He is not sure how many innings he can go Saturday.

“The body is going to tell you when you’re tired,’’ he said. “You come here, you prepare yourself. Everybody works differently.’’

Aceves has pitched effectively in relief. For now, the team will add righthander Michael Bowden to the roster before tonight’s game against Detroit and expects to activate righthander Dan Wheeler off the disabled list Friday.

The 44-year-old Wakefield is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA this season and has made two starts. He allowed one run over 5 2/3 innings against Seattle May 1 but was rocked by the Twins five days later, giving up six earned runs over 4 1/3 innings.

Wakefield has wanted the opportunity to play a more meaningful role on the staff. Now he gets it.

“I don’t think any team wants to go seven, eight deep, especially in a two-day period losing two-fifths of your rotation,’’ Francona said. “Wake has done it for a long time. Wake’s done it since I’ve been a little kid. I think we’re OK there.’’

Wakefield last pitched May 11. Francona said the team would decide today whether he would pitch a few innings in relief to tune up for Sunday or prepare on the side.

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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