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February 22, 2007

103-pitch session for Dice-K

By Gordon Edes, Globe Staff

With all the top Sox brass looking on, Daisuke Matsuzaka threw a whopping 103-pitch bullpen session today. Afterwards, catcher Doug Mirabelli said he’d never seen anyone throw that many pitches in a single session this early in spring training.

“It wasn’t something he just dropped on us,” said Sox GM Theo Epstein. “That bullpen today was the product of a lot of discourse and part of his very well-thought-out structured routine. And it was impressive.

"I think probably the thing that caught my attention the most was, he’s in there 80-90 pitches deep, and he’s still going from the stretch, still checking runners, still taking it like a real game situation. Every single pitch had a purpose. You almost wanted to videotape it and show it to our young guys in minor league camp, about how to get the most out of your practice, and he certainly does.”

Equally impressive was the fact that catcher Jason Varitek caught him the entire session. That's above and beyond what a catcher is usually called upon to do.

Matsuzaka threw longer-than-usual bullpen sessions in Japan, and manager Terry Francona said earlier this week he’d continue to do so with the Sox here in Fort Myers.

“I heard the question earlier about how do you know how much is too much,” said Epstein. “Certainly he’s got an established track record of staying healthy. He knows himself really well. But there are going to be compromises and input on both ends so, I think he backed off a little bit yesterday from his long toss program in order to be fresh to throw an extended bullpen today and I feel really good about the way he’s getting ready for the season right now.”

Red Sox owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, Epstein, and president Larry Lucchino were all on hand to watch the session.

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