Considering that Daisuke Matsuzaka has put together eight innings of two-run ball on 10 hits, a walk, and three strikeouts, you’d probably say that he’s been good enough get in the mix for the home stretch of the Cleveland Indians‘ internal competition for a rotation spot this spring.
Unfortunately, though, the 32-year old might soon find himself the victim of a cruel numbers game.
The fact of the matter is despite the struggles of … well, just about every guy ahead of him that are currently projected in the competition, Matsuzaka’s eight Cactus League innings are falling a little behind compared to say, Zach McAllister‘s 14.1, Carlos Carrasco‘s 13, and Trevor Bauer‘s 11, as a result of a setback that the the veteran suffered in his start on Monday.
According to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, Indians manager Terry Francona has said that Matsuzaka is “only out to three innings”, and that the team is “starting to run out of innings” to give him, as their mix of starters are going to require their workload to be ramped up over the last couple of weeks in Spring Training.
That leaves both the team and Matsuzaka in a tough spot.
The Indians could certainly use the depth, considering that their staff, from Ubaldo Jimenez (eight earn runs on 19 hits and two walks over 13 innings) and newcomer Brett Myers (10 earned runs on 19 hits and a whopping seven walks over 12.2 innings) are going through their respective struggles.
Whether Matsuzaka will be willing to go down to the minors to provide them that, especially considering the strong performance that he’s had, is another story.
The righty, who is coming off both Tommy John surgery and a neck injury from 2012, signed a minor league deal with the Indians, but may not want to go down to the minors and wait, especially given how he has pitched this Spring.
Like most minor league deals of the type, the veteran does have the option to opt out in case he doesn’t make the minor leagues, and the choices are getting to be pretty hard for the Indians, who have committed rotation spots to those who are struggling, while folks like Dice-K and Scott Kazmir (no runs, five hits, one walk and eight strikeouts over eight innings) have performed as well as can be hoped.
So, what’s next? The bullpen doesn’t have any more room, and while the team could send Bauer and Carrasco down, that still leaves them with a choice between Kazmir and Matsuzaka, a race which the latter isn’t winning right now.
“I’m not ready to have that conversation” was what Francona said in regards to whether Dice-K would consider going to the minors for the time being (he has an opt-out clause until June 1 should he accepts). The manager will want to prepare for imminently, though, as the team only has until March 26 to decide whether or not their reclamation project will end up making the 25-man roster.
Until then, watch for both Matsuzaka and Kazmir to have one final outing to impress the team’s brass.
It’s turned into the best problem that the team wanted to have when they signed the two, but it’s a problem nonetheless, and one that they’re going to have to solve soon.