Dice-K throws live BP, eyes July return to Sox rotation


FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It seems impossible to reach a consensus on the number of actual pitches Daisuke Matsuzaka threw in his first live batting practice session since undergoing Tommy John surgery last year.

But Friday, this much was clear: it was a positive first step back in his recovery.

Matsuzaka threw more than 40 pitches, though some came in-between hitters taking swings and some came with hitters standing in the box but not swinging.

"Daisuke looked OK," reported manager Bobby Valentine, who watched the workout with other members of the coaching staff. "He threw about 20 pitches without a hitter in there and they were all very good, I thought. And then about the first seven with a hitter in there were not very good. And the last eight, I thought he corrected himself nicely.

"I was happy with the progress."

Matsuzaka mixed in sliders and changeups with his fastball when pitching to hitters.
Matsuzaka will continue to build arm strength for the rest of the month, then remain here when the team leaves on April to take part in the organization's Extended Spring Training program. Eventually, he'll begin making rehab starts for the team's minor league affiliates, with an eye toward rejoining the Red Sox' rotation perhaps as early as July.

Asked if Matsuzaka might pitch in a minor league game here before the Sox leave, Valentine pondered for a while, then responded: "Before we leave? I don't think that's realistic. But I think right after April 1 that he might be able to."

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