Given the way his rehab assignment started at Class A Advanced Salem on Monday, Red Sox starting pitcher may have wished he had waited a little longer.
The Japanese right-hander surrendered leadoff home runs in the first and second innings en route to allowing three earned runs on six hits over four innings of work during the Red Sox's 7-2 loss to Wilmington.
Matsuzaka was scheduled to go either 75 pitches or four innings in his first rehab outing of the year. The 31-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery last June and had last pitched in a Major League game for Boston on May 16. He had only pitched in eight games, going 3-3 with a 5.30 ERA, before the injury to his right elbow.
Blue Rocks second baseman Whit Merrifield took Matsuzaka deep on an 0-2 pitch -- the third pitch he saw -- to lead off Monday's contest. The rehabbing righty allowed two runs on hits by three of the first four batters he faced. He hit 93 mph with his fastball, according to the Lewis Gale Field radar gun.
He gave up another leadoff homer to Wilmington right fielder Geulin Beltre in the second, but settled to retire the next three batters in a row -- two on strikeouts. Matsuzaka allowed just two more hits the rest of the way and set down the final five hitters he saw. He threw 57 pitches on the night, 40 for strikes.
The Red Sox have not announced when or where the former Japanese phenom would be making his next rehab appearance, although it is expected he will be back on the mound by the weekend.
Matsuzaka is required to be back with the big league club 30 days after he begins a Minor League rehab assignment. That would put the right-hander back with Boston at the end of May, unless he suffers a setback with the elbow. Such a timetable would put him ahead of the typical 12- to 15-month rehabilitation period typically associated with Tommy John surgeries.
Royals' No. 12 prospect Jason Adam gave up five hits in five shutout innings for Wilmington. The righty has now given up just one earned run in 22 2/3 innings over his four starts for a 0.40 ERA, best in the Carolina League. Kansas City's No. 5 prospect Cheslor Cuthbert had a career-high four hits, including two doubles, and three RBIs.
Boston's No. 7 prospect Brandon Jacobs went 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs for Salem.