Indians give Dice-K a shot with Minor League deal
Matsuzaka reunites with Francona, to compete for job at back end of rotation
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona saw Daisuke Matsuzaka at his best during the pitcher's early days with the Red Sox. Now, Cleveland is giving the former phenom a chance to revive his career.
On Sunday, the Indians reached an agreement with Matsuzaka on a Minor League contract, pending the completion of a physical. The Tribe's pitchers and catchers officially reported to camp on Sunday, and physicals are scheduled to take place throughout the day on Monday.
Cleveland's first workout for pitchers and catchers is slated for Tuesday.
As things currently stand, the Indians have an assortment of arms in the mix for one vacancy at the back end of the rotation. Matsuzaka -- known as Dice-K -- is a long-shot candidate for the job, which will be up for grabs among Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, David Huff and Scott Kazmir as well.
The top four spots within the Tribe's rotation are tentatively reserved for Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers and Zach McAllister.
Francona was the manager of the Red Sox in 2007, when the club won the right to negotiate a contract with Matsuzaka with a bid of $51,111,111.11 through Japan's posting system. Boston inked the right-hander to a six-year pact worth $52 million, prying him away from the Seibu Lions.
In 2007, Matsuzaka finished fourth in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting, while helping Boston to a World Series triumph. A year later, Dice-K finished fourth in Cy Young voting after turning in his best season in the big leagues, going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 154 strikeouts over 167 2/3 innings for the Red Sox.
Across the 2007-08 campaigns, Matsuzaka went a combined 33-15 with a 3.72 ERA in 61 outings.
Since that strong start to a much-hyped Major League career, Matsuzaka has endured inconsistent results and injury. He has gone 17-22 with a 5.53 ERA over the past four seasons (296 innings) and underwent Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery on his throwing elbow in June 2011.
Matsuzaka made his return to the mound for the Red Sox in June of last season, when he went 1-7 with an 8.28 ERA over 11 outings, in which he compiled 41 strikeouts and 20 walks in 45 2/3 innings. In his final five starts of the year, the right-hander went 0-4 with a 14.36 ERA, giving up 25 earned runs with 15 strikeouts and 10 walks in 15 2/3 innings.
Matsuzaka joins Kazmir as the only non-roster possibilities for the Indians' rotation. Carrasco (out of last season due to an elbow injury) and Bauer (acquired from the D-backs via trade this winter) appear to be leading candidates for the fifth spot. Kluber is in the mix after an up-and-down rookie showing last year, while Huff is an option as a starter or reliever.