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Dice-K Set to Return, Again

Dice-K Rehab Start (Photo, AP)

He’s almost back, finally. As Daiske Matusuzaka is scheduled to make his first start for the Sox since Oct. 2, Boston can only hope he doesn’t fall apart again, his body or his season. He has been solid in his three rehab starts in AAA, dominating his (obviously inferior) competition.

“I think I’ve thrown enough pitches at this point to be ready to pitch in the big leagues,” Matsuzaka said.

Hopefully he is right.

This story is getting old, though.  After minimal Spring Training action and the most recent trip to the DL, does Terry Francona think Dice-K will really stay healthy long enough to make an impact?  Though the state of the Sox is looking better (10-11 through 21 games after starting 4-9 this season and giving up 5 runs or more in 8 of those first 13 games), they’ll take any help they can get.

An Investment with Diminishing Returns

As much as Dice-K seems like he can help, he is not the solution, but rather the problem.  Remember when John Henry forked over $51.11 million just to talk with him? The club could really use that cash now. The terrible performance last season was not worth anywhere close to the $8.67 million he picked up at the end of the season. That seemed like a worthy price tag during his first two seasons (15-12 and a World Series in ’07, 18-3 in ’08), but now he is panning out as a poor long term investment.  The World Baseball Classic doomed him, leaving him ailing at the start of ‘09. Fighting through injury and instability, a 4-6 season was all he could muster.

Frustrated by his own self-destruction on the mound last year, Dice-K summed up his feelings bluntly in a post-season interview.

“If I’m forced to continue to train in this environment, I may no longer be able to pitch like I did in Japan.”

I guess $103.11 million couldn’t convince him to like pitching in Boston. Given his injury problems, the possibility of another putrid season, and his sulking mentality, is another chance the right move?

So now, with injury still looming as Dice-K once again takes the hill in Fenway and a different team behind him, what is Red Sox management thinking?

“We should have spent that $103.11 million finding run support.”

It is said that good pitching beats good hitting. Not this year, and not for the Sox. The key off-season moves to land John Lackey, Marco Scutaro, and Mike Cameron looked to shore up the rotation and team defense, but what about offense? David Ortiz magically forgot how to hit the long ball after his steroid debacle and Kevin Youkilis is just starting to wake up. That extra cash from the Dice-K acquisition could have surely beefed up the middle of the lineup. Yes, they are averaging 6.3 runs over the last seven games through Tuesday, but that won’t last all season. Not with this lineup. Just look at the run production in the first 13 games (3.8 runs per game).

“We need someone durable in the five spot.”

When Matsuzaka comes back, the rotation will be shaken up, with Tim Wakefield moving to the bullpen.  On paper, it should be solid without Dice-K, but life is anything but sure in the Red Sox rotation. Tim Wakefield is coming off yet another good year, much better than Dice-K at least. Wake hasn’t started less than 21 games since 2003, but his back has been bothering him the last couple years. Is it the right decision moving the seemingly immortal wake to the bullpen with the fickle Dice-K fit on his way back?  Luckily it isn’t our job to decide.

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