MIYAZAKI – A year after his Nippon Professional Baseball comeback season consisted of two minor league innings, Daisuke Matsuzaka picked up the pace in camp on Saturday.
Throwing his first bullpen in three days, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks right-hander aired it out in a 100-pitch session, his longest this spring.
“I threw my first breaking balls to a crouching catcher, but there were no problems at all,” said the 35-year-old, who had surgery on his right shoulder in August and has been training with the Hawks’ rehab group in camp.
Although the fit players normally practice apart from those in the rehab group, Saturday’s rain changed the normal routines and saw Matsuzaka throw alongside lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, who is returning to the Hawks this season after four years in the United States.
“I think I could use my breaking pitches right away in a game,” Matsuzaka said.
Free of concerns about his shoulder, Matsuzaka has oozed confidence this spring. Other than a blister on his thumb last Sunday that only stopped him for a moment, he’s had no physical setbacks.
Regarding his being prohibited from throwing bullpens on consecutive days, Matsuzaka said it was probably not a hard-and-fast rule.
“I think I could do it,” he said. “If I say I want to throw, I’ll be allowed to throw.”
Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo, a Hall of Fame pitcher and student of sports science, has been surprised by Matsuzaka’s progress, but indicated he isn’t pressuring him to be ready in time for Opening Day.
“It’s rare for someone to be able to throw this well six months after surgery,” Kudo said.
“I haven’t said even once that he had to be in the starting rotation from the start of the season.”