Friday, August 28, 2009

Rain delays Dice-K's rehab, but not his return

Daisuke Matsuzaka will not pitch in Manchester on Saturday, Red Sox manager Terry Francona announced on Friday afternoon, and instead will pitch the first game of a rescheduled doubleheader on Sunday for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.

But that won't change the target date for his return.

"That doesn't really do anything," Francona said, "because when I stated that Dice could come back and pitch on the 8th, we really wanted him to pitch on the 9th. That actually works out perfect."

You have to assume that Matsuzaka will replace Junichi Tazawa in the starting rotation. Clay Buchholz is here to stay, and neither of the other three pitchers at the top of the rotation are going anywhere. That means the schedule likely breaks down as follows:

Aug. 28 vs. Toronto: Beckett
Aug. 29 vs. Toronto: Buchholz
Aug. 30 vs. Toronto: Lester
(The team has a day off on Aug. 31, the day before rosters expand.)
Sept. 1 at Tampa Bay: Wakefield
Sept. 2 at Tampa Bay: Tazawa

Sept. 3 at Tampa Bay: Beckett (five days' rest)
Sept. 4 at Chicago: Buchholz (five days' rest)
Sept. 5 at Chicago: Lester (five days' rest)
Sept. 6 at Chicago: Wakefield (four days' rest)
Sept. 7 at Chicago: Tazawa (four days' rest)

Sept. 8 vs. Baltimore: Beckett (four days' rest)
Sept. 9: vs. Baltimore: Matsuzaka
(The team has a day off on Sept. 10.)
Sept. 11 vs. Tampa Bay: Buchholz (six days' rest)
Sept. 12 vs. Tampa Bay: Lester (six days' rest)
Sept. 13 vs. Tampa Bay: Wakefield (six days' rest)
(The team has a day off on Sept. 14.)

Sept. 15 vs. Los Angeles: Beckett (six days' rest)
This is the spot where it starts to get interesting. Beckett would have gone a week without pitching and would need to take his turn before the extra rest became a hindrance to his routine. Tazawa, by this point, would be in the bullpen.
Sept. 16 vs. Los Angeles: Matsuzaka (six days' rest)
Sept. 17 vs. Los Angeles: Buchholz (five days' rest)
Sept. 18 at Baltimore: Lester (five days' rest)
Sept. 19 at Baltimore: Wakefield (five days' rest)

And so on.

If Matsuzaka replaces Tazawa in the rotation, Sept. 15 or 16 would be the natural day for the transition to happen. The Red Sox pitchers would get an extra day of rest thanks to Matsuzaka's first start back from the disabled list, but too much rest might do more harm than good.

The Red Sox then will go almost three weeks without a day off, but with every pitcher taking his turn every five days and extra depth available in the bullpen, it ought to be easy to prevent anyone from getting overworked.

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