Word out of Boston is that after a year on the sidelines with arm woes that Daisuke Matsuzaka, otherwise known as Yu Darvish before Yu Darvish, is ready to pitch again. If Matsuzaka is revived and can fill a hole in the Red Sox’s starting rotation he could be a difference maker as the team continues to work on overcoming its slow start.
Just having a healthy body back, as opposed to shipping someone else to the disabled list as if it were simply another minor league team roster, could be a morale boost for the Red Sox. There was a time when it was believed that Matsuzaka could be the next Greg Maddux or something, but he has never quite lived up to his hype. As great as he was in Japan, Matsuzaka has always been just good in Boston.
Still, a Matsuzaka pitching as he did at his best for Boston is not a bad addition. He will never be a No. 1, the ace, but he definitely can fill a top-five role, especially with Daniel Bard being sent out to AAA Pawtucket the other day. Since he first joined the Red Sox in 2007, Matsuzaka’s record is 49-30 with a 4.25 earned run average. At his best he has been very good and also fun to watch. The guy has more pitches in his repertoire than there are different kinds of M&Ms.
Although it is questionable whether it will ever happen again or not, Matsuzaka’s fastball has touched 97 mph. At his most effective, though, he is mixing his stuff up. When he searches for options Matsuzaka can reach for a change-up that behaves like a screwball and a secondary fastball in the low 90s. When he is on, batters get fooled. He has just never been as consistent as the Red Sox hoped he would be when they forked over lots of moola for the right to negotiate with him and then gave Matsuzaka a six-year, $52-million contract.
Grabbing Matsuzaka looked like a good deal for the Red Sox at first. In 2007, when the team won the World Series, he finished 15-12. In 2008, when he was just 27, he was fantastic, finishing 18-3 with a 2.90 earned run average. It has been downhill since with seasonal records of 4-6, 9-6, and 3-3. He is 0-0 in 2012, but that looks as if it is about to change.
At 31 and coming off Tommy John surgery, it seems doubtful that Matsuzaka again will ever be as sharp as he was in 2008. But right now the Red Sox will take 9-6. If Matsuzaka can perform at that level, he will fulfill a need for Boston and could be an integral piece in pulling things back together for a team used to contending for a pennant, but which in 2012 has been battling to escape last place.