Dice-K accepts Indians' Minors assignment
Set back by calf cramping, right-hander limited to eight innings in Spring Training
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After making the determination that Daisuke Matsuzaka would not be part of their Opening Day rotation, the Indians decided not to waste the pitcher's time.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona and general manager Chris Antonetti called a meeting with Matsuzaka on Monday and expressed their desire to keep the right-hander in the organization. Matsuzaka has accepted an assignment with Triple-A Columbus, but there are still steps left in the process to make it official.
"I think Daisuke shares an interest in staying here," Antonetti said. "Now we need to work through the logistics with [agent Scott Boras] about the conditions of him staying here and going to Triple-A and things like that."
Matsuzaka confirmed his interest in remaining with the Indians. The pitcher said the key to that decision came during his meeting with Francona and Antonetti, who both told Matsuzaka that they believe he can contribute to the big league team this season.
Hearing that made Matsuzaka feel good about sticking with Cleveland.
"They told me that they want me on this club, and that they see me on this club," Matsuzaka said through his interpreter, Jeff Cutler. "They see me as someone who can contribute to this club. Having heard that directly from them definitely made me feel comfortable staying here."
Under the guidelines of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Matsuzaka, a six-year free agent who signed a Minor League contract after being on a big league deal with Boston last season, would qualify for a $100,000 retention bonus if he accepts a stint in the Minors. Under that scenario, Matsuzaka would also be granted the right to opt out of his contract by June 1 if he is not in the Majors by that time.
Another option for Cleveland would be to release the pitcher before negotiating a new contract.
Matsuzaka entered camp as a non-roster invitee and was competing against Scott Kazmir, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber for the fifth spot on the starting staff. Through four Cactus League appearances, the 32-year-old posted a 2.25 ERA with three strikeouts, one walk and 10 hits allowed in eight innings.
Matsuzaka said he was not surprised by the Indians' decision.
"I had expected most of what's happened over the last day or two," Matsuzaka said. "Starting out, my goal was to be in the big leagues for Opening Day. I wasn't able to survive that competition, but it's not the end. It's definitely not the end. The organization is giving me an opportunity to pitch in the Minors, so I'd like to take that for what it is and do what I can to improve so I can contribute to the big league team somewhere down the line."
Against the Angels on March 11, Matsuzaka exited his outing after just one inning due to cramping in his right calf. He logged three innings in a Minor League game on Saturday, but there is not sufficient time remaining in camp for the pitcher to build up his pitch count to be ready for Opening Day. Cleveland also believes Matsuzaka has not been as sharp as he can be on the mound.
"He was probably a little bit behind coming in," Francona said. "And then when he had the calf [injury] he was only out to three innings. So it's not realistic innings-wise, nor are we seeing yet what we want to see, what we think we can see, as a pitcher, or what he thinks he can show as a pitcher also. I think we're on the same page. There's just some logistics to work out."
Matsuzaka knows he still has plenty of work to do.
"The life on my breaking pitches and everything needs to improve," Matsuzaka said. "There's still a little bit more that I need to do. More important, I think my velocity can improve. It's not where I know it can be, and that was probably one of the reasons why the front office also decided to make this decision.
"The calf injury that happened along the way, that was a big setback, and that definitely prohibited me from getting my pitch count up and getting my innings in."
Last season, Matsuzaka went 1-7 with an 8.28 ERA in 11 starts for the Red Sox during his comeback from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He has gone 17-22 with a 5.53 ERA in 56 games over the past four seasons after going 33-15 with a 3.72 ERA in 61 games for Boston in 2007-08.
Having Matsuzaka in Triple-A would certainly provide the Tribe with additional experienced depth.
"Remember one of the first things we said back in October?" Francona said. "When you think you have enough pitching, go get more. I think we still stand by that. That's the one way that you can derail your season -- by not having enough pitching. And you never know when you're going to need more."