Five for Sunday: On Dice, Miller and more

March, 20, 2011
3/20/11
5:35
PM ET
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox "A" team lineup came together for the first time on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, Daisuke Matsuzaka threw strikes and Jerry Remy mocked Muammar el-Qaddafi (who but the RemDawg would make the Colonel’s first name rhyme with Nomar?).

How do you beat that for spring training entertainment?

For starters, maybe by not spotting the St. Louis Cardinals a 10-run lead. The Cards scored all of their runs with two outs in the sixth inning en route to a 10-3 win over the Sox. Boston saw the National League’s best hitter, Albert Pujols, on Sunday, and on Monday night will face arguably the NL’s best pitcher, Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies, in Clearwater.

Five takeaways from the day:

1. Another deep breath for Daisuke


We’ve now seen it two starts in a row: Matsuzaka commanding the strike zone -- he threw a 10-pitch first inning Sunday, eight for strikes -- working briskly, relying on his fastball, trusting his defense. Sunday, he held the Cardinals scoreless for the first five innings, felt he had enough life on his fastball to throw it to the Great Albert in a fastball count (Pujols flied out), and recorded 10 outs on fly balls and popups.

[+] EnlargeMatsuzaka
AP Photo/Charles KrupaBoth Daisuke Matsuzaka and manager Terry Francona were pleased with the pitcher's outing against the Cardinals.
Manager Terry Francona lifted him after a two-out walk to Pujols, only his second of the game, and a double by Matt Holliday. Francona probably could have left him in for another hitter or two, the manager said, but wanted to see how Andrew Miller would fare against a lefty hitter, Colby Rasmus. Ultimately, Matsuzaka was charged with 2 earned runs over 5 2/3 innings.

Matsuzaka was happy, and so was the manager.

“I thought I had great life on my fastball, strong enough to throw it right down the middle,’’ said Matsuzaka, who also said that he hopes he’ll continue to add pace and velocity to the pitch, which averaged in the low-90s on Sunday.

The man who was never anything less than an ace in Japan from the time he became a national sensation in the country’s high school tournament said he could live with being Boston’s No. 5 starter.

“My first objective in spring training was to make the rotation,’’ Matsuzaka said. “I don’t particularly think about the order of the rotation. I just want to stay on the same page, show good results and be the champions.’’

Francona: “Good tempo. Threw strikes. Two in a row now, starting to gear up.’’

Has the change in his between-game routine made a difference, now that he is throwing his side session and long tossing on different days? Matsuzaka said he’s getting used to it, but wants to reserve judgment.

2. Miller time? Best spent in Pawtucket


This was Exhibit A in why the Red Sox have been telling people from the get-go that the gifted Andrew Miller needs time to reconstruct his career, and that there are no guarantees that he will succeed in doing so. Miller walked the left-hander he was brought in expressly to face, Rasmus. There was a bloop, an infield hit, another walk, more hits. When the smoke cleared, it was six batters faced, six batters reaching, six runs scoring. Maybe the Sox will unlock the mystery, maybe they won’t. The greatest ally Miller, still only 25, has on his side is Boston’s patience.

3. The lineup: Did anyone say balanced?


Shame on Marco Scutaro and Jacoby Ellsbury. They were the only position players on Francona’s lineup card at the start of the game who haven’t been All-Stars. Adrian Gonzalez at first, Dustin Pedroia at second, Kevin Youkilis at third, Carl Crawford in left, J.D. Drew in right, Jason Varitek catching. All-Stars all.

OK, so they didn’t make much noise on Sunday; the scrubs scored all three of Boston’s runs in the eighth inning. But when David Ortiz is batting sixth and Drew seventh, you know pitchers are in for some longer outings than Kyle McClellan (5 IP, 3 H, 0 R) experienced Sunday.

Francona went with an Ellsbury-Pedroia-Crawford-Gonzalez-Youkilis-Ortiz-Drew-Varitek-Scutaro combination Sunday. He had said the day before that Pedroia/Crawford and Youkilis/Ortiz are interchangeable. Why this order Sunday?

“Don’t know,’’ Francona said. “I made it out three days ago. Or maybe DeMarlo [Hale, the bench coach] did.’’

4. The bullpen competition


That’s two straight Sundays that Scott Atchison hasn’t fooled anybody. He came in after Josh Beckett loaded the bases last week and all three runners scored. Sunday, he relieved Miller, walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, then gave up a three-run double to Pujols and an RBI double by Matt Holiday.

Lefties Rich Hill and Dennys Reyes fared better, each throwing a scoreless inning.

5. Monday in Clearwater


Hey, the wind might be blowing out and a pinball game breaks out, but Lester vs. Doc Halladay has a chance to be fun for everyone except the hitters.

The Sox are sending Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jed Lowrie, Ortiz, Pedroia, Ellsbury and Mike Cameron. Bus leaves at 7:30 a.m.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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