Matsuzaka to have surgery

His Red Sox career could well be over

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / June 3, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

Daisuke Matsuzaka has thrown his last pitch for the Red Sox this season. Perhaps forever.

Multiple major league sources said yesterday that the righthander has decided to undergo reconstructive surgery on his elbow, a decision that could bring to an end his tumultuous career in Boston.

The Red Sox plan to review the matter one more time with the doctors involved before giving their approval. But Matsuzaka already has tentative plans to travel to California next week for the surgery, which will be performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum.

Matsuzaka has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and will undergo what is known as Tommy John surgery. In what has become a common procedure in baseball, a tendon taken from the patient’s opposite forearm, hamstring, or knee replaces the torn UCL.

Most pitchers typically take 12-14 months to recover from the surgery. In theory, Matsuzaka could return to the Red Sox for the second half of next season.

But outside forces could affect that timetable. Matsuzaka’s contract expires at the end of the 2012 season and he could drag out his return to make a fresh start with a new team in 2013 rather than pitch and risk damaging whatever value he has as a free agent. Agent Scott Boras will no doubt influence his decision.

Matsuzaka turns 31 in September and surely plans to continue his career, whether in the United States or Japan. He has $16.5 million remaining on his contract. The Red Sox will likely recoup some of that money via insurance.

If Matsuzaka has indeed thrown his last pitch for the Red Sox, he leaves a legacy of mixed results.

Matsuzaka was 33-15 with a 3.72 ERA in his first two seasons, helping the Sox win the 2007 World Series and finishing fourth in the 2008 Cy Young Award voting after an 18-3 season.

The three seasons since then have been frustrating. Matsuzaka has gone an aggregate 16-15, 5.03, and developed a reputation for recalcitrance. Since 2008, he has been on the disabled list six times and missed approximately 25 starts.

Matsuzaka and the Sox engaged in a public spat for much of his injury-riddled 2009 season. He hid several injuries from the team and at one point was sent to the team facility in Fort Myers, Fla., to get in better condition. Both sides acknowledged a breakdown in communication and vowed to improve.

But Matsuzaka was largely an afterthought by the start of spring training this season. The throngs of Japanese journalists who chronicled his early seasons with the Sox dwindled to a small group, and he broke camp as the No. 5 starter.

The communication gap also remained wide. On Wednesday, manager Terry Francona told reporters that no surgery was scheduled and that Matsuzaka would try a course of rest and rehabilitation. Hours later, Nikkan Sports of Japan quoted sources close to Matsuzaka saying that he had elected to have surgery.

Matsuzaka met with team executives yesterday and gave them the same news.

The Sox paid $51,111,111 to the Seibu Lions for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka in 2006. They then signed him to a six-year, $52 million contract that included such perks as first-class plane tickets, a physical therapist, a masseuse, a media coordinator, a Lincoln Town Car, and housing allowances.

For $103 million plus the lavish extras, the Sox have so far received 105 starts and a raft of headaches.

The team also received no discernible marketing or financial advantages in the Asian market, a myth propagated by Matsuzaka’s handlers after Seibu made him available.

“It didn’t translate to significant off-field revenue,’’ team president Larry Lucchino said in February.

Yesterday, when word of Matsuzaka needing surgery spread, nearly 73 percent of respondents to a poll on voted that his acquisition was a mistake.

“Good riddance,’’ said one comment posted to the Extra Bases blog.

Matsuzaka was 3-3 with a 5.30 ERA in eight appearances this season. The Sox have been using Tim Wakefield as a starter in his absence, with good results. The 44-year-old knuckleballer is 2-0 with a 3.20 ERA in three starts since replacing Matsuzaka in the rotation.

The Sox also have righthander Alfredo Aceves, who came out of the bullpen to make three starts, as an alternative should Wakefield stumble. Minor leaguers Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller, and Kyle Weiland are other options.

Whether the Sox pursue a trade for a starter likely depends on the performance of John Lackey, who is scheduled to return to the rotation Sunday after a stint on the disabled list. If Lackey regains his form, the Sox could avoid entering the trade market.

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



Red Sox Video