Daisuke Matsuzaka made Triple-A Pawtucket the latest stop on his post-Tommy John rehab tour through the Minors on Monday, and he brought some good results with him.
The Japanese right-hander allowed two hits and walked three batters over 4 2/3 shutout innings for the Red Sox in their 4-0 blanking of the Rochester Red Wings. He threw 87 pitches -- 49 for strikes -- and hit 92 mph on the McCoy Stadium radar gun.
"I thought he did very well. ... I was impressed," PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler told MLB.com. "He kept the ball down in the zone. He threw strikes. He got himself back into counts and was pretty efficient for a while.
"I was really impressed with the stuff. I saw him a couple of weeks ago in Portland, and the stuff didn't seem as crisp as what I saw tonight. I thought his slider was really crisp. He had good plane on his fastball and moved the ball in and out."
Matsuzaka, who underwent Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow last June, had to labor through his first two innings. Five of the nine hitters he faced in those two frames saw six or more pitches, causing the 31-year-old to throw 40 total pitches (20 in each inning).
The former 18-game winner needed only seven pitches to set down the side in the third and was a walk away from a perfect fourth. He struck out the first two Red Wings in the fifth, but allowed a double to Darin Mastroianni and a walk before Beyeler gave him the hook.
Alex Wilson (2 1/3 innings), Will Inman (one frame) and Mark Melancon (one inning) preserved the shutout out of the PawSox bullpen.
Matsuzaka, who spoke through interpreter Jeff Cutler, said after the game that although the box score may have looked clean, he was disappointed.
"I had [three] walks and a lot of two-ball and three-ball counts, which [elevated] my pitch count," he told MLB.com. "I really wanted to throw at least five innings, but it didn't happen, so I'm not really happy about that."
As always with these rehab outings, health is the chief concern. There was a small scare when Matsuzaka had to push back his third rehab outing due to neck soreness. Although he said there was no issue with the neck Monday, he acknowledged that he still had some other health issues.
"Overall, my body feels good, so that's fine," Matsuzaka told MLB.com. "But my elbow, some days it feels better than others. Right now I'm just hoping that when I start, [it's on a] day that I'm feeling good.
"Being ready [after] two more games is hard to say, because it's a step-by-step process. I'll see how I pitch in my next outing and see how that goes. Then we'll see where I stand."
Matsuzaka is expected to take the mound Saturday in Pawtucket's home contest against Columbus. He had allowed three runs over four innings for Class A Advanced Salem and one run over 4 2/3 frames for Double-A Portland in his previous two rehab outings.
Boston's No. 4 prospect Ryan Lavarnway matched a season high for hits by going 3-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. PawSox left fielder Daniel Nava went 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBIs and two runs.