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Daisuke Matsuzaka Throws Off Of Mound

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Pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Boston Red Sox watches his team against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Boston Red Sox watches his team against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
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Per a report by the Mainichi Daily News (and by way of WEEI's Alex Speier) there is word that Daisuke Matsuzaka threw off of a mound for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery June 10 of last year. This is good news for the Red Sox, not just Matsuzaka, as the sooner he rehabilitates from his major procedure, the sooner he can be back with Boston as additional pitching depth.

You might be wondering, "Who is this person being positive about Dice-K?" While a quick search will certainly yield plenty of moments where Matsuzaka's nibbling and inconsistency has driven me mad over the years, the dislike for him is also generally overdone. I'm not about to start up a fan club by any means, but he has his uses.

Matsuzaka, when healthy, is capable of being a league-average or better starting pitcher. His main issue is that he is rarely healthy. That can't just be waved away and certainly isn't insignificant, but with major elbow surgery in his recent past, Matsuzaka might finally be able to perform on the mound with some measure of consistency. At the least, his chances of doing so have improved.

While the fact it was TJ that was necessary to heal what ailed Matsuzaka was something of a shock, an injury itself wasn't a surprise. Last spring at Red Sox Beacon, we profiled each of the team's major players, analyzing an important factor that related to success or failure in the upcoming season. Find the article via a search engine, and you'll see the headline, "Daisuke Matsuzaka Needs To Avoid Injuries."

The other key point made in the piece, besides bracing yourself for an inevitable injury, was that Dice-K, even with a history littered with strained this and pulled that, was still expected to be effective. Just not in terms of quantity. Matsuzaka was projected for a 4.14 ERA, 14 quality starts, over eight strikeouts per nine, and plenty of walks, as evidenced by the 1.4 WHIP forecast. The ERA seemed low, even with the optimism of spring around, but the rest sounded plausible, especially just the 150-160 innings.

Matsuzaka instead threw just 36 frames with an ERA of 5.30, thanks to never finding his rhythm courtesy of that busted elbow. Had he remained healthy (or, at least, what qualifies for a typically healthy Dice-K campaign), it's likely Boston would have made the playoffs. He wouldn't have even needed to replicate his optimistic pre-season projections, either: just a repeat of 2010 or a continuation of his career's work (career 108 ERA+, even including the brutal, injury-shortened campaigns) with Boston would have sufficed in place of what the Red Sox did throw out there.

That's certainly some post-traumatic September disorder talking, but it's also reality. Dice-K is no worse than many of the pitchers the Red Sox and this community would have been fine with signing this winter. He's not Roy Oswalt, or maybe even Edwin Jackson, but he is capable of average or better innings, and that's all that Red Sox rotation needed. With the last spot in the Red Sox rotation undetermined still, it's oddly comforting to think that Matsuzaka might be back in 2012 after all.