December 15, 2006

CRANK UP THE VCRS:

The phenom meets Fenway (JOE McDONALD, 12/15/06, Providence Journal)

So, here's the information on the newest addition to the Sox' rotation, who is considered a national treasure in Japan.

"It's a rare combination of stuff," said Epstein. "He has good command. He has a strong sense of pitching intelligence that makes it such a unique and compelling package. That's what attracted us to him, a pitcher who can compete at the highest level."

The first time Shipley saw Matsuzaka pitch live was in July 2003 for the Seibu Lions and he was very impressed. Shipley has seen him pitch live 10 times against Japan's top-notch talent. It may not seem like a lot of games, but Shipley and the Sox have an extensive report.

"He was dialing it up at 96, 97 in the sixth inning," said Shipley. "He was getting stronger as the game went along."

Shipley explained Matsuzaka has tremendous confidence and mound presence, and a combination of pitches he can throw on any given night.

Matsuzaka has a six-pitch repertoire -- fastball, curveball, slider, changeup, split and cutter -- with all above average. The club feels he has harnessed his ability and is coming into his prime.

He's been working on his changeup for the last two seasons, and hasn't used his splitter as much. His slider is more of a power curveball with tremendous late-breaking action. His curveball is above-average, but he rarely uses it. He can elevate his fastball, and also locate it down in the zone.

"He has an advance feel for all his pitches," said Shipley.

What about the magical pitch?

"The gyro ball does not exist," said Shipley. "He laughs at it."

The thing that made some nervous was the amount of innings Matsuzaka has pitched in his career. If anything, the Sox feel it will make him a stronger pitcher. His résumé shows he has won 14 or more games in six of his eight seasons with the Lions. He's posted 200 strikeouts four times, and in 2005 recorded a career-best 226 strikeouts in 215 innings. More impressive is his 29 complete games over the last two seasons.

Boston won't change that approach.

"That's obviously up to (manger Terry Francona)," said Shipley. "You have a pitcher that can log the amount of innings that Daisuke can, a pitcher who can go deep into games, it's a huge, huge advantage. He's been conditioned to do it, so it's nothing foreign to him. He wants to start the game and finish the game."


Assuming they put him in the rotation, but the back of it, to start the season, the first major league pitch he throws is likely to be to Ichiro. It'll likely be the most media ever at a baseball game.

NESN is showing his win the WBC tonight.

MORE:
Sold on Matsuzaka madness: Newest Sox pitcher at Hub of marketing blitz (Donna Goodison, December 15, 2006, Boston Herald)

Red Sox fans in Waltham munched on Fenway franks steamed in sake yesterday while Hub believers hoisted Sapporo beer, as local businesses jumped on the Daisuke Matsuzaka bandwagon and started cashing in on the Japanese pitching sensation.

“It’s a very, very early Christmas present from John Henry and the Red Sox [team stats] to the Boston and Massachusetts visitor economy,” said Pat Moscaritolo, Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau chief. [...]

The Hustle Award goes to Modell’s Sporting Goods, which sent an employee to Bangor, Pa., to fetch Matsuzaka jerseys and T-shirts hot off production lines yesterday at Majestic Athletic Ltd., an official Major League Baseball licensee.
Modell’s, aiming to be the first local retailer to sell the shirts to fans, still was awaiting an MLB green light last night to do so.

The Hub tourism industry is banking on an influx of Japanese fans. The Eliot Hotel started fielding calls about a month ago from tour operators looking to create travel packages, general manager Pascale Schlaefli said.

Since Sox tickets are hard to come by, Moscaritolo forecasts a best-case scenario of 5,000 more Japanese visitors next year, spending $14 million. Unlike other Japanese MLB players, Matsuzaka will pitch once every five days, he noted.

Tourism Massachusetts fast-tracked a Japanese-language version of its Web site, usamass.com, which will launch early next year.

“We’re getting so much press in Japan right now, this is a great opportunity to reach out to a larger audience,” CEO William MacDougall said.


Right down to the wire: Sox almost left empty-handed (Michael Silverman, 12/15/06, Boston Herald)
When the Red Sox left their Costa Mesa, Calif., hotel an hour and a half before taking off on John Henry’s private jet for a 9 a.m. flight to Boston on Wednesday, they thought hopes for a deal with Matsuzaka were dead, a source close to the talks said yesterday.

After giving Matsuzaka and his agent, Scott Boras, their final offer of six years and $52 million at a mid-evening meeting, the Red Sox left without a counterproposal in hand. At that point, they declared that the deal was dead.

Only after that declaration, later in the night, did they receive their first counteroffer - nearly 30 days after making their winning $51.11 million bid to the Seibu Lions.

Boras’ proposal was for six years and $66 million. The Red Sox reiterated that they were not coming up from their offer. At 4 a.m., Matsuzaka himself visited the Red Sox’ hotel, heading to the team’s suite for more face-to-face talks, in which the Red Sox brass assured him that he and his family would be taken care of.

When he left the suite, the Red Sox believed they had done an adequate job of addressing Matsuzaka’s concerns, but they still had no idea what he was thinking. The Red Sox then negotiated with Boras until 5:30 in the morning.

Then there was no contact.

As the Red Sox contingent headed for John Wayne Airport, about a 10-minute drive from the hotel, a call was placed at 7:30 to Boras, said the source, and the agent told them Matsuzaka was not coming on the trip.

At the airport, an hour before the planned 9 a.m. departure, the Red Sox made one final call. This time, they were told Matsuzaka would be there.

Ceremonial first pitch: Sox welcome Matsuzaka with a Fenway outing (Jeff Horrigan, 12/15/06, Boston Herald)
It was not part of the well-planned itinerary for the largest offseason press event ever held at Fenway Park [map] when Red Sox [team stats] principal owner John W. Henry encouraged Daisuke Matsuzaka to head out to the mound yesterday and toss a baseball to him.

With both men dressed in business suits, Matsuzaka, whose six-year, $52 million contract was to be announced just over an hour later in a press conference televised live on two continents, toed the rubber and unleashed a soft offering to Henry, who was crouched in front of a tarpaulin-covered home plate. As the ball sailed up and away, a gloveless owner lunged for it, only to lose his balance and tumble backward, planting his hands behind him just in time to avoid landing in an enormous puddle.

Matsuzaka, who officially agreed to terms just hours before the Sox’ negotiating window was to slam shut, bowed and apologized as agent Scott Boras helped Henry to his feet, but the chuckling owner was unfazed. Even though it was an impromptu moment of a historic day, it contained a bit of unintentional symbolism.


Posted by Orrin Judd at December 15, 2006 8:09 AM
Comments

Is it true that Matsuzaka is Japanese for Beckett?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 15, 2006 12:22 PM

Certainly the upside would be that he be as good as Beckett, giving the Sox five potential aces -- Beckett, Papelbon, Lester, Buchholz, Matsuzaka -- in their mid to low 20s all under their control for the rest of the decade.

It would also be unsurprising if his adjustment to the AL East from Japan is more difficult than Beckett's was from the NL. If he does manage to post 16 wins, a la Beckett, he'll have been a steal.

Posted by: oj at December 15, 2006 12:43 PM
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