At last, Matsuzaka to make debut

At last, Matsuzaka to make debut

For months, Daisuke Matsuzaka has been the No. 1 topic surrounding the Boston Red Sox. Every aspect of his arsenal has been dissected. Every bit of his history has been reviewed. Every nuance of his assimilation has been reported.

The only thing that hasn't happened -- Matsuzaka pitching in an official game for the Red Sox -- will occur Thursday afternoon when the much-ballyhooed righty from Japan makes his Major League debut against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

From Japan to New England to Kansas City, they'll be watching. The Red Sox have liked the view so far.

"I think it's just a monster hype job that we're going through," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "I hope he just settles down and pitches. I hope he gets into his own groove and doesn't try to do too much. His stuff is excellent."

This will not be the first time Matsuzaka has stepped on the Kauffman Stadium mound. He got that out of the way on Tuesday, throwing a side session at a near empty ballpark.

"He felt good after throwing the bullpen [session]," said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. "He had the opportunity to throw his bullpen on the main field as he sees this ballpark for the first time, what the backdrop would be with the catcher, etc. Any kind of familiarity would be a plus."

While Matsuzaka's debut is being viewed as a spectacle, the drama of it all doesn't figure to bother him. In fact, it will probably make Matsuzaka feel more at home.

"Because he has pitched on such a high stage since the age of 17, that's where he's shown us his relaxation and his mound presence, to be able to deal with the attention and the spotlight," said Farrell. "To me, I think he feels very much at home in that environment."

Matsuzaka might not feel so comfortable in the elements. The forecast? Frigid. Game-time temperature will be in the low 40s with a wind-chill that will make it feel like the mid-30s.

"He has pitched in cold weather. It's been on some rare occasions, because their home ballpark was a dome in Seibu," Farrell said. "The one great thing about pitching on a cold night or a cold day is the warmest guy on the field is the starting pitcher."

Matsuzaka, as is his custom, didn't speak to the media the day before his start. But he did answer a broad question about the weather after his exhibition start in Philadelphia last weekend.

"I'm feeling comfortable with the changes in climate. I'm told what to expect in each region," said Matsuzaka. "I'm not too concerned with the climate changes in each city."

The bigger change will be in the ferocity of the hitters Matsuzaka will face. The American League has the type of lineups he never saw in Japan.

There is confidence, however, that Matsuzaka will stand tall amid the challenge.

"David Cone is a pitcher that had similar type of stuff when he was in his prime," said Farrell. "Similar body types. You're looking at 6-foot right-handers that can command a number of pitches and have above average velocity and can throw any one of those pitches at any time in the count. For a reference point, that would be comparable."

The Red Sox just want Matsuzaka to do what he did all spring.

"He throws all his pitches for strikes," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He had a good spring. Hopefully now that will carry over to a long successful career. We're happy we have him. Now the season starts and it will be exciting to watch his progression."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (Major League debut)
At least during Spring Training, Matsuzaka appeared ready to live up to his lofty billing, going 2-1 with a 2.91 ERA in five starts. Matsuzaka was a legend in Japan during his eight-year career with the Seibu Lions. He went 108-60 with a 2.95 ERA while producing 1,355 strikeouts. Matsuzaka also led Japan to victory in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. En route to the MVP award, Matsuzaka went 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA.

KC: RHP Zach Greinke (1-0, 4.26 ERA in 2006)
Greinke, a 2002 first-round pick, spent most of last season with Double-A Wichita, where he went 8-3 with a 4.34 ERA in 18 games. He was a September callup after the Texas League playoffs and made three relief appearances. Greinke had a spectacular Spring Training to earn a rotation slot.

Player to watch
Prized Royals rookie Alex Gordon is 0-for-7 in his first two Major League games. Might he break out against fellow rookie Matsuzaka?

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• NESN

On radio
• WRKO-680 AM

Up next
• Friday: Red Sox (RHP Tim Wakefield, 7-11, 4.63 ERA in 2006) at Rangers (RHP Robinson Tejeda, 5-5, 4.28 ERA in 2006), 2:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Red Sox (RHP Julian Tavarez, 5-4, 4.47 ERA in 2006) at Rangers (RHP Kevin Millwood, 0-1, 5.40 ERA), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Red Sox (RHP Curt Schilling, 0-1, 11.25 ERA) at Rangers (RHP Vicente Padilla, 0-1, 11.57 ERA), 8:05 p.m. ET

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.