April 6, 2007
CONSIDER PEDRO REPLACED:
Elevated to an art form: Not simply a pitcher, Dice-K's a performer (Tony Massarotti, 4/06/07, Boston Herald)
Circle the dates now: April 11 vs. Seattle, April 16 vs. the Los Angeles Angels and April 21 against the New York Yankees. This season, every fifth game is now a Dice Game.
The Red Sox have a new leading man.
"It's always good to watch a pitcher who has a lot of different weapons, and can execute pitches, and think creatively along with Jason (Varitek), and keep hitters off balance," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said of Daisuke Matsuzaka yesterday at Kauffman Stadium, where the Red Sox posted a 4-1 win over the Kansas City Royals. "That's pitching. That's not throwing. He's extremely poised out there. The mound is his territory. He owns it when he's out there."
And now, he already may own Boston, too.
He certainly does have a flair for the dramatic, as when he ended an inning on a 95mph fastball for a strikeout, easily the hardest he threw a ball all game. It looks like he'll succeed though just by keeping hitters off balance. The poor Red Sox announcers. even after he's thrown a pitch you half the time have no idea what it was. The most effective, but also most dangerous, is either a change or some kind of slider/nickel curve that he throws with exactly the same motion as his fastball but has a little hump back in it and drops sharply at the plate going just 80 mph. It's unhittable when he throws it right, but even Ross Gload blistered the one that stayed up. Those will be homers against real hitters. Nothing goes further than a badly thrown slider. When it was thrown right though he followed it with a rising fastball every time and no hitter was able to make the adjustment.
It was very pleasant to see Zach Greinke match him pitch for pitch. He's a kid who can hit the mid-90s but as a 20 year old was throwing mostly in the 80s and when they asked him why he said he wanted to be Greg Maddux. That's pretty sacvvy and rare enough in an athelete, but they should have just shown him the tape of Maddux when he was truly dominant, still throwing in the 90s and throwing mostly fastballs to set up the off-speed stuff. Greinke missed most of last year with psychological problems, but if he has pulled it together he's easily as promising an ace as Dice-K.
Royals silenced by motion, commotion (Nick Cafardo, 4/06/07, Boston Globe)
"I'm just happy it's over and they're out of town," said Kansas City right fielder Mark Teahen, after Dice-K turned in a sterling performance in Boston's 4-1 win yesterday. "I'm just happy we're getting back to two or three reporters and back to the quiet that we have here. It was quite a thing the past few days." [...]
"I'll tell you," said former Red Sox pitcher Mike Boddicker, now a Royals broadcaster, "he is everything he was billed to be. He knows how to pitch. He knows how to elevate the fastball to make guys chase and he can get his breaking ball over any time he wants."
What especially impressed Boddicker was Matsuzaka's ability to vary the pauses in his delivery.
"Amazing. His pauses aren't all the same," he said. "If you're up there as a hitter, you don't know when he's going to deliver the ball. It's really tough. I don't know if in time the league will be able to figure that out, but for now, geez, that's hard for a hitter to figure out."
The one sequence that really stood out for Boddicker was Ryan Shealy's at-bat in the seventh, when "he knocked him off the plate, and then he popped another fastball that froze him. It totally confused him. You could see it in Ryan's face."
In Japan, they rooted all night (Jenn Abelson, 4/06/07, Boston Globe)
It's after 3 a.m., but that hasn't stopped diehard Dice-K fans from pulling an all-nighter at the Brain Buster sports bar here to watch the Red Sox pitcher make his major league debut.Posted by Orrin Judd at April 6, 2007 7:00 AM
Satoshi Ishimaru and his two friends cheered and clinked cocktails of vodka and tea as Daisuke Matsuzaka took the mound more than 6,000 miles away in Kansas City, Mo. These newly minted Red Sox fans said they are looking to the 26-year-old phenomenon featured on nine television screens across the front of the bar to show just what Japan's baseball prowess is all about.
"I'm too excited to sleep," said Mahiro Ochi, 32, a financial analyst in Tokyo. "I've been waiting all winter for this."