Sunday, June 21, 2009

Matsuzaka on DL, so Brown gets first call-up

Having waited until the horde of reporters cleared out of the way, Dusty Brown wandered over toward the office of Red Sox manager Terry Francona. He walked over slowly, not sure whether he should knock on the half-open door or wait for someone to come out and say something to him.

It was like being called to the principal's office -- only the exact opposite.

The Red Sox today placed Daisuke Matsuzaka on the disabled list with weakness in his throwing shoulder, weakness that Francona maintains stems from his inability to ease into his throwing this spring the way the team's other pitchers did. Instead of throwing two innings and taking it easy the first time he faced hitters, Matsuzaka "pitched in earnest before he was ready to," Francona said. "There's no getting around that. I don't know how you can. You just hope it doesn't affect your guys."

There was no reason to activate John Smoltz until Thurday, though, which meant the Red Sox essentially would have been wasting a roster spot for most of the week. Brown was recalled hastily from Triple-A Pawtucket -- he flew in this morning from Durham, N.C. -- to provide a little depth at catcher and ensure Jason Varitek wouldn't have to play today even if something were to happen to George Kottaras.

"When I came down and talked to Theo (Epstein), I was like, 'You know, we've got a day off Monday, and it's almost like a free roster spot until Smoltz comes back on,'" Francona said. "I said, 'You know what? We always try to stay away from 'Tek on a day game, and Dusty is almost on the roster.' He was like, 'Let's get him here.'"

Brown had to be pulled out of the shower late Saturday night after the PawSox pulled out a come-from-behind victory over the Durham Bulls. Early this morning, he was on a quick flight from the Raleigh-Durham airport to Boston. His flight landed at 10:30 a.m., and he walked into the clubhouse right around 11.

He hadn't yet had a chance to greet many of the players when reporters surrounded him at his new locker in the corner. He was especially looking forward to finding Kottaras, with whom he split catching duties at Pawtucket last season.

"I haven't even seen Georgie yet," he said. "He hasn't been in the clubhouse since I've been in here. I'll definitely be in his ear all day."

Brown will stay with the team for the next three days or so -- including the off-day on Monday -- before being dispatched back to Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday to make room for Smoltz.

"I'm looking forward to whatever I get when I'm here," he said. "I'm just excited to be here."

Brown is hitting .239 and OBP'ing .347 in 163 at-bats at Triple-A Pawtucket this season. The fact that Michael Bowden and Clay Buchholz have a 1.90 ERA and 3.26 ERA, respectively, and the PawSox have the third-best ERA (3.39) in the International League means he's doing that part of his job pretty well.

"It's been up and down," he said. "Defensively, it's been pretty good, and what our pitching staff has done has been pretty good. I've struggled offensively more than I would like to, but there's been some bright spots."

None of that matters now, though: He's in the big leagues.

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