OAKLAND, CA: Daisuke Matsuzaka #18 of the Boston Red Sox adjusts his hat after giving up a home run to Josh Reddick #16 of the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Daisuke Matsuzaka is dealing with a sore neck*, and it showed in his start against the Athletics, a game that Boston lost 6-1 thanks to Dice-K's giving up five runs in just one-plus inning, and in all of 27 pitches. Clay Mortensen was strong in relief, going five frames and giving up all of two hits and one run, but the damage was done, and that might have been the case even if the A's hurlers didn't quiet Boston's bats after the first.
*Dice-K was dealing with the neck issue prior to giving up homers to former Red Sox Josh Reddick and Brandon Moss, but we're sure that watching those sail out of the park didn't help his condition any.
Matsuzaka's sore neck kept him from throwing a side session in between starts, and while Ian Browne reports Dice-K felt he could still give his team a chance to win, instead, he offered up batting practice to the worst offensive team in the AL. It's the same spot in his neck -- the trapezius muscle that interrupted his rehab assignment -- that's bothered him on-and-off this season, and with Boston currently using six starters anyway, could very well result in a DL stint.
That would make trading Matsuzaka difficult in July, but if he continues to pitch like he has in 2012, moving him isn't going to be much of an option anyway. At a time when Matsuzaka, Aaron Cook, and Franklin Morales are all fighting over what, in the long run, is just one rotation spot, Dice-K's neck problems might mean he's already out of the running. It might also mean the end of his time in Boston, assuming the rotation can stay healthy enough down the stretch to avoid another turn down what's been a long and winding road with disappointing scenery for much of the last three years. As he's a free agent at year's end, the same need to see what they have in Dice-K just isn't there for the Red Sox, as it has been in the past.
The one positive to come out of this? If Dice-K needs to hit the disabled list, Boston will still have 12 pitchers on the roster and a full rotation, and will be able to call up help from Pawtucket to fix the Will Middlebrooks situation without putting their starting third baseman on the DL to compensate. If Middlebrooks needs to hit the DL as well, then expect Junichi Tazawa, the only reliever left in Pawtucket with an option, to get the call to the Sox -- Justin Germano might have opted out of his deal, but the 40-man roster situation just might be too muddled to give him a shot in the bigs.