Notes: Dice-K gets closer to rehab stint

April, 4, 2012
DETROIT -- The reports continuing to be encouraging on pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, 10 months into his recovery from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

"He'll be in Fort Myers, I think, at least for most of April,'' GM Ben Cherington said, "getting his pitch counts up. Assuming that goes well, then there will be a rehab assignment. He's doing very well, but with any rehab, they're not normally perfectly linear things. Sometimes you need a day, or there's an issue where you change things, but the progression is going very well. I believe he should be pitching in minor league games in the not-too-distant future and we'll go from there.''

The Red Sox elected to have John Lackey, also recovering from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, remain back in Fort Myers to continue his rehab, at least through the first road trip, Cherington said.

"We're taking the season in chunks,'' Cherington said. "Right now his focus is on therapy, conditioning, his throwing program. When he starts getting up on a mound and gets into his delivery, the work changes and it's important for him to be around the pitching coach a little more.''

* The first batter reigning MVP Justin Verlander of the Tigers will face in 2012 is Jacoby Ellsbury, the MVP runner-up. Ellsbury is 3 for 14 (.214) in his career against Verlander, with a double, a walk, and a strikeout.

The last time the Red Sox faced a reigning MVP was in 1914, when future Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, the American League Chalmers Award winner, beat the Red Sox, 3-0.

* Verlander has won his last dozen decisions dating back to the end of last season, but he is 0-1 with an 8.27 ERA (19 ER in 20 2/3 IP) in four Opening Day starts.

* How many wins can the Sox expect from rookie left-hander Felix Doubront? Consider this: Since Al Nipper went 11-8 in 1984, only one rookie has won as many as 10 games in a season for the Sox, and he was a rookie in the technical sense only: Matsuzaka, who went 15-12 in 2007. The last left-hander to win 10 or more games as a rookie was John Curtis, who went 11-8 in 1972, 40 years ago.

* Bobby Valentine’s major-league teams are 8-5 (.615) on Opening Day. Valentine has won his last two, the last with the Mets in 2002.

* The Red Sox will feature two newcomers in their lineup Thursday: Outfielders Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney. They each have a chance to become the first player to hit a home run in their first Red Sox plate appearance since Daniel Nava, who homered off Joe Blanton of the Phillies on June 12, 2010 at Fenway Park. The last Sox player to do so on the road was Orlando Cabrera, who homered in Minnesota on Aug. 1, 2004, the day after he was acquired to replace Nomar Garciaparra at shortstop.

* Ross began his career with the Tigers. A fourth-round selection in 1999, Ross was the team’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2003, and made his big-league debut on July 4. His first career home run was a grand slam off Cliff Lee on Sept. 2 at Tiger Stadium. He was traded the following winter for a left-handed pitcher, Steve Colyer, who played only one season in Detroit.

* The Red Sox are 19-7 against the Tigers in the last four seasons, winning five out of six last season.

* The Tigers have lost four of their last five openers, but have been tough on Sox Opening Day starter Jon Lester, who is 0-2 with a 5.89 ERA (12 ER in 18 1/3 innings) in 3 career starts against Detroit.

* Tim Wakefield fell seven wins short in his quest to become the winningest pitcher in Sox history, but the knuckleballer retired as the team’s career leader in starts, innings, losses, walks and home runs allowed. Wakefield gave up 401 long balls, 207 more than runner-up Roger Clemens (194).

* Dustin Pedroia is tied with Casey Kotchman for highest Opening Day batting average, .444 (minimum 15 at-bats).

* It's not yet official, but the Red Sox will open the season with nine players on the disabled list: John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Carl Crawford, Bobby Jenks, Andrew Bailey, Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, Ryan Kalish, Chris Carpenter. The total value of their 2012 contracts: $59.27 million.

* Hall of Famer Al Kaline is throwing out the ceremonial first pitch Thursday. Kaline is entering the sixth decade with the club.

* The Tigers are featuring a new 6,000 square foot HD video screen in left field.

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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