The crowded Mets rotation looks like it could get a little more overloaded in the near future after Daisuke Matsuzaka said he is "definitely ready" to return.
Dice-K struck out seven batters over five innings of two-hit ball for short-season Brooklyn on Thursday evening in the Cyclones' 2-0 win over the rival Staten Island Yankees.
"No problems, no worries," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter after the game. "Just wanted to go out there and pitch well and give the team a chance to win.
"The decision isn't up to me, but I was ready after my previous outing and I'm definitely ready now."
The 33-year-old native of Japan has been sidelined since late July after he experienced discomfort in his elbow following a start in Milwaukee on July 25. An MRI the following day revealed no structural damage and he was able to throw off flat ground the following weekend once the inflammation subsided.
He pitched three scoreless innings for Class A Advanced St. Lucie against Bradenton on Aug. 11 and he scattered three hits over six frames for Double-A Binghamton in Reading on Saturday.
Matsuzaka loaded the bases in the first inning Thursday at MCU Park on two hits and a walk, but he struck out New York-Penn League All-Stars Connor Spencer and Luis Torrens to escape unscathed.
After that, the veteran cruised, striking out the side in the second and setting down 12 of the final 13 batters he faced before turning over a 1-0 lead to his bullpen. He said throwing first-pitch strikes was the biggest secret to his success.
"That's definitely something that I wanted to do today," Dice-K said. "My previous experience in rehab starts, the guys tended to be really aggressive, so I kept that in mind and wanted to attack them early.
"My plan for today was that if runners got in scoring position, to get strikeouts and make sure they don't get back home. I was able to do that in the first inning and continued doing that for the rest of the game. I wanted to use all my pitches and use them in different situations, different counts and see how everything came out."
In 28 games, including nine starts, for the big league club this year, Matsuzaka is 3-3 with a 3.87 ERA, but it's unclear where he fits into the big league team's plans.
Jacob deGrom is expected to return from his right rotator cuff tendinitis in time for the Mets' weekend series with the Dodgers. With Jonathan Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler already entrenched in the rotation and Bartolo Colon returning from bereavement leave, Matsuzaka's role is undetermined.
"I don't know if I'm going to be starting or coming out of the bullpen when I return, so I just wanted to focus on what I could focus on now, which is starting. I was able to do that without any problems," Matsuzaka said.
Brad Wieck struck out four batters over two one-hit innings, Kelly Secrest worked around a hit in a scoreless eighth and Shane Bay tossed a perfect ninth to collect his 14th save of the season.
Staten Island's Dillon McNamara (1-2) allowed two runs on six hits and a walk over three innings.
Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB.