Saturday, February 24, 2007

Matsuzaka Shows the Right Stuff

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Everything seemed to stop at 11:32 a.m. ET on Saturday, when Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka stepped on the mound at Johnny Pesky Field and got ready to face hitters for the first time since his arrival in camp.
Photographers clicked at break-neck speed; reporters quizzed each other on which Minor League hitters Matsuzaka was facing; Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino took it in from behind the batting cage; manager Terry Francona also snuck over for a peek during Matsuzaka's 44-pitch session, which generally drew rave reviews.
All this excitement over a round of batting practice? Perhaps only Francona could truly say he's witnessed anything quite like it.
"You've got to remember, I had Michael Jordan [in the Minor Leagues]. And this guy can't dunk," quipped Francona. "So I have seen it."
Francona managed Jordan at Double-A Birmingham in 1994, and remembers similar buzz to what he's seeing this spring in Fort Myers.
"When Michael would take batting practice, you'd hear the cameras, kind of like you do when Daisuke [pitches]," Francona said. "It's a little similar -- that, and, I think, Pete Rose. Those are maybe the three who come to mind."
Interestingly, Matsuzaka started from the stretch, throwing 20 pitches before converting to the windup. As usual, he had a reason for doing it like that. Matsuzaka seems to enjoy testing himself mentally every bit, as much as physically.

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