BOSTON -- The return of Daisuke Matsuzaka is set for Saturday, as the right-hander will take Daniel Bard's spot in the rotation for a start against the Washington Nationals.

Matsuzaka's return to the rotation will come one day short of his one-year anniversary of undergoing Tommy John ligament transfer surgery.

"Yeah, he was in today -- says he feels fine," said manager Bobby Valentine. "Unless something changes, we'll try to activate him and try to pitch him on Saturday. Obviously we'll wait until that day comes around [to make it official]."

Three weeks ago, Valentine noted some mechanical problems Matsuzaka was having, and at that time, he didn't think Dice-K was close to a return to the Majors.

But after being shut down for a week with discomfort in his right trap muscle and then having a cortisone shot, Matsuzaka seemed to re-set himself and has made improvements in recent outings.

"It all kind of smoothed out," Valentine said. "You know, he wasn't sure. There was a little doubt about his elbow even. It was one of those wakeup days and he just felt it was a thing of the past, and that's what we needed."

As for Bard, the Red Sox met with him on Wednesday morning to further discuss how he will proceed upon his arrival to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he was optioned on Tuesday.

Bard threw a bullpen session at Fenway on Tuesday. He'll likely report to Pawtucket in the next day or two.

Slumping Adrian slides to sixth against lefty

BOSTON -- The fact that Adrian Gonzalez hasn't been able to get in a sustained groove this season was evident by his place in the batting order on Wednesday night. For the first time since 2006, Gonzalez started a game in the No. 6 hole.

"Just seeing if we can get a little more balance with a left-handed pitcher tonight," said manager Bobby Valentine.

The Red Sox faced lefty Wei-Yin Chen on Wednesday and will go against southpaw Brian Matusz on Wednesday.

After a superb 2011 season with the Red Sox, Gonzalez is hitting .262 with four homers and 29 RBIs this season. His on-base percentage is .316.

"I think the walks will come and the home runs will come," said Valentine. "I think that they're joined at the hip. Adrian's a really good hitter. He just hasn't found that rhythm yet at the plate. He will. He'll have his numbers.

"I'm not sure if he's going outside the strike zone or if he's too anxious and not waiting for his pitch. I'm sure he'll have a walk and a home run in one of these games and I think that will set him off."

For Wednesday's game, Kevin Youkilis hit third, followed by David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks.