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Hawks remove hurler Matsuzaka from projected season-opening rotation

Kyodo

Daisuke Matsuzaka has been dropped from the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks projected season-opening pitching rotation, manager Kimiyasu Kudo revealed Friday.

Matsuzaka has been throwing well following surgery on his right shoulder last August, but Kudo has decided not to push the 35-year-old. Matsuzaka has yet to pitch in a regular-season game with the first team since returning from the big leagues last season.

“The real games are starting. Because he’s coming off surgery, I want to let him have a little margin,” Kudo said.

Matsuzaka is scheduled to pitch against South Korea’s Doosan Bears on March 3. The Hawks, who are seeking to win their third straight Japan Series, will use five starters in March but are expected to need six from the start of April. Kudo, however, has yet to commit to Matsuzaka for that slot.

“Nothing’s been decided,” Kudo said. “I want him to win that final spot.”