Notebook

First time out, Matsuzaka looked like money in the bank

April 08, 2007

It's one game. And it was against the Kansas City Royals, so it will be interesting to see what he can do against a major league lineup.

But for one afternoon in Midwest America, Japanese hype machine Daisuke Matsuzaka was the real deal, lasting seven innings and 108 pitches Thursday, allowing seven base runners and striking out 10 to pick up the win for the Boston Red Sox.

"He has total control of the game when he's out there," said Boston designated hitter David Ortiz. "When you watch him on TV, it's like a Nintendo game. ... He's got pitches that just disappear when they get to the plate."

Some scouts believe Matsuzaka will level off as a middle-of-the-rotation starter once hitters figure out his many arm angles. But Matsuzaka goes beyond trickery. He has six pitches he throws for strikes and throws them in any count, so guessing hitters are out of luck. And then there are his windup hesitations, which appear to be on the doorstep of a balk.

"Amazing. His pauses aren't all the same. If you're up there as a hitter, you don't know when he's going to deliver the ball. It's really tough," former Orioles pitcher Mike Boddicker, now a Kansas City broadcaster, told The Boston Globe. "I don't know if in time the league will be able to figure that out, but for now, geez."

Burrell in Baltimore?

Philadelphia Phillies slugger Pat Burrell, whose right-handed bat would fit perfectly in the Orioles' lineup, said he heard rumors last season that he evoked his no-trade clause to prevent him from being dealt to Baltimore. Not true, he said this spring.

"I said to [Phillies general manager Pat Gillick], `Did you come talk to me about Baltimore?'" Burrell said. "And he said, `I don't think so.' So I don't know where it came from."

The truth may be somewhere in the middle. One industry source said Burrell was unofficially canvassed as to whether he'd consider leaving the contending Phillies and their booing fans for Camden Yards and its perennial fourth-place squad and he said no. So talks never reached a point where club management had to approach him. Had Gillick, would Burrell be an Oriole in 2007?

"It's a little late now," Burrell said smiling. "In hindsight, you never know."

Strong impression

Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar was asked who impressed him the most this spring. Though he gave the popular answer of poised youngster Adam Loewen as a secondary response, his first thought was a little more intriguing: veteran reliever Danys Baez, who allowed six runs and 12 hits in 11 1/3 innings. But what struck Millar was Baez the teammate.

"I've faced Danys for all these years, but I didn't know the person he is," Millar said. "A good hard worker and just the appreciation he has for being at this level on a daily basis. That's impressive."

Cool tribute

The Royals deserve kudos for how they are honoring Buck O'Neil, who died in October at 94.

A former Negro leagues player, manager and ambassador and former big league coach and scout, O'Neil was always in the same seat behind home plate at Kauffman Stadium. The team has painted it red and designated it the "Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat." Each home game the seat will be reserved for a member of the community who embodies the spirit of O'Neil. On Opening Day it was given to Warren O'Neil, Buck's 89-year-old brother, who threw out the first pitch.

Compiled from interviews and other newspapers' reports.

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