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March 6, 2007
Matsuzaka throws three shutout innings
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) - Daisuke Matsuzaka reached to snare a line drive, then grinned and bowed to his shortstop.
It turns out the rookie from Japan is a pretty good fielder.
He can pitch, too: Matsuzaka threw three scoreless innings for the Boston Red Sox when he faced major league hitters for the first time Tuesday.
Dice-K allowed two hits, walked one and struck out three against the Florida Marlins. The right-hander threw 47 pitches, 31 for strikes, including a first-pitch strike to 10 of 12 batters. He escaped a one-out jam in the second after giving up a walk and a double.
Matsuzaka made the trip from the Red Sox complex in Fort Myers on Monday. That proved wise because the team bus got lost Tuesday and arrived more than an hour late for batting practice.
Matsuzaka, meanwhile, remained right on schedule in his transition from Japan's Pacific League to the American League. He signed a $52 million, six-year contract after Boston agreed to pay the Seibu Lions $51 million for his rights.
His Grapefruit League debut drew a sellout crowd and 150 members of the media, the majority of them Japanese. Because of the small press box at Roger Dean Stadium, some reporters watched from folding chairs set up three deep down the right-field line.
The game was televised live in Japan, where the first pitch was at 3 a.m.
Two dozen cameramen and photographers clustered on the field near the Red Sox bullpen to record Matsuzaka's pregame warmup. A security guard scolded them when they strayed too close to the foul line.
The first batter Matsuzaka faced was Ramirez, a former Red Sox prospect, who took a fastball for a strike and was then retired on a one-hopper to the pitcher.
Matsuzaka walked Joe Borchard on a 3-2 pitch to start the second, then gave up a one-out ground-rule double to John Gall. Borchard would have scored had the ball not bounced off the warning track and over the fence.
When Scott Seabol worked the count to 2-2, catcher Jason Varitek went to the mound for a chat. Matsuzaka is apparently progressing well in the English lessons he's taking, because he covered his mouth with his glove to prevent the Marlins from reading his lips.
The next pitch was a called strike three, and Eric Reed then popped out on a bunt to end the threat.
Matsuzaka threw a bullpen session Monday, a rarity for a pitcher on the day before a start. The Red Sox gave the OK only because it's part of Matsuzaka's normal routine.
"It's a continual feeling-out process on both sides," manager Terry Francona said.
Marlins starter Yusmeiro Petit pitched three shutout innings, allowing one hit while striking out five.
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