Daisuke Matsuzaka threw seven innings for the Pawtucket Red Sox in his Tuesday night start, giving up just one hit and no runs on four walks and seven strikeouts. The right-hander threw 102 pitches in the effort, in what was easily the most-effective of his five rehab appearances with the PawSox.
He's been on his rehab assignment with the PawSox since July 30, so the clock is ticking for him -- he'll need to be back in Boston soon, because those are the rules. That might not be such a terrible thing, though, for a few reasons. It's the last time Dice-K will be with the Red Sox, lest he be re-signed, as his contract runs out at the end of the season, or a month and change from now. More importantly might be that the shine has come off of Aaron Cook once again, who has now given up at least five runs in five of his last six starts. His ERA might not look the part thanks to unearned runs, but Cook is simply giving up too many hits and balls in play for the defense to be able to keep runs off of the board alone.
Dice-K is no savior, but at least he misses bats, and at this point might give the Red Sox a better chance of winning games. Neither arm might even be necessary with Felix Doubront likely returning from the disabled list this weekend, but both hurlers are on the 40-man roster, and rosters are expanding on September 1, so there will be room for them, even if there aren't many innings.
Matsuzaka is at the end of a six-year, $52 million contract that was derailed by constant injuries over the last four years of the deal. Matsuzaka threw 372 innings in 2007-2008, with an ERA+ of 126, but has compiled just 273 frames and an 86 ERA+ since. It's unknown if Boston wants to see him in September to see if he is worth retaining on the cheap as pitching depth, but, if he's healthy for the first time in years thanks to Tommy John surgery, it might be worth exploring. Your first inclination might be to say no, but again, if we're talking about what Dice-K might do against the disappointment Aaron Cook has already levied against us, at a time in the season where Boston's goal is to discover things that could help the 2013 club, then there's no real harm in finding out -- it's not going to take innings away from any potential 2013 starters sitting at Pawtucket.
Then again, maybe the last four years of injuries and ineffectiveness were quite enough exploration.