Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka has his professional baseball career planned out, and that plan includes him pitching until the ripe old age of 40. The question about his future was originally posed to him in 2010, and the answer apparently hasn’t changed. Dice-K confirmed this through his interpreter during an interview at Red Sox spring training. Matsuzaka, who is in the last year of a 6 year, $52 million contract that he signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2007 (after Boston paid $51.1 million just to negotiate with the Japanese ace) also happens to be recovering from Tommy John surgery. Daisuke continues to rehab in with the squad, but will not throw in a game during spring training. Tommy John surgery usually takes 12 – 18 months to fully heal and that timetable would put Matsuzaka on pace for a return to the Boston rotation in the 2nd half of the 2012 season.
The former ace for the Seibu Lions of the Japanese Pacific League has navigated through a roller coater of a major league career with the Red Sox. He was an incredibly sought after free agent coming from Japan, and the signing by Boston was one that was much heralded. That kind of pressure, in a town as crazy about their sports as Boston, heaped expectations onto Matsuzaka’s shoulders from the moment he signed his contract.
After a respectable initial season with Boston in 2007 where he went 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA, threw 1 complete game and had 201 strike outs, Dice-K had a tremendous 2008 campaign. In 2008, Matsuzaka finished 4th in Cy Young voting, while he compiled an incredible 18-3 record with a 2.90 ERA, 154 K’S and 94 walks in 29 starts. And then the pressure really mounted. It has been a very disappointing journey since then, as he has combined record of 16-15 with ERA’s of 5.76, 4.69 and 5.30, respectively, in those 3 years.
At 31 years of age, he certainly has time to turn things around, but recovering from Tommy John surgery is the first hurdle he must overcome. After that, questions about velocity and his ability to throw certain pitches, like the changeup, will loom large. Getting another 9 years out of a surgically repaired elbow is not going to be easy, but it is far from impossible; especially if he learns how to pitch effectively at a lower velocity.
While he said that he plans to pitch until the age of 40, many Red Sox fans would argue that Dice-K hasn’t really pitched since 2008.