At last, Dice-K set for Fenway debut

At last, Dice-K set for Fenway debut

Who knows how many millions of viewers will be watching in Japan, but there should be blinding lights from the packed Fenway Park house when Daisuke Matsuzaka throws that first pitch of Wednesday night's game to Mariners leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki.

Two Japanese legends, face to face, in what will be Matsuzaka's first home start for the Red Sox.

What kind of spectacle is Red Sox manager Terry Francona expecting?

"First hitter of the game," said Francona. "I hope he gets him out. I'm sure there will be some flash bulbs going off. From our standpoint, it probably doesn't go much past that."

But for Matsuzaka, it goes deeper. Ichiro, along with Hideki Matsui, Hideo Nomo and others, helped pave the way for his move from Japanese stardom to the Major Leagues.

"I'm very excited about it and I can't wait to face him," Matsuzaka told reporters a few days ago.

Aside from the Matsuzaka-Ichiro showdowns, there is also a terrific pitching matchup on tap. Seattle counters with ace Felix Hernandez.

"I would rather face somebody not quite as good," said Francona. "It will be interesting. It looks like this kid for them is starting to get it. Even all through Spring Training, the way he's composed himself on the mound, the way he's throwing the ball, it's starting to come together. We'll have our hands full. Hopefully so will they. We have a pretty good guy going for us too."

Matsuzaka, who was nothing short of brilliant (one run, 10 strikeouts in seven innings) during his Major League debut last Thursday at Kansas City, will have all kinds of emotions flooding through him.

Ever since the Red Sox won exclusive bidding rights for Matsuzaka with a posting fee of $51.1 million, the righty has wondered what it would be like to make his home starts in such a hallowed yard.

"I always wanted to be on the mound at Fenway so naturally when I stand there, special emotions may come to me then," said Matsuzaka. "I think that [Fenway] is a sacred place for any pitcher because great pitchers, such as Cy Young, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens all pitched there. The game at Fenway means a lot more to me personally [than the game at Kansas City]."

This won't be Matsuzaka's first throwing session on the Fenway mound. During Monday's off-day, amid a near empty Fenway, Matsuzaka threw his side session on the regular mound.

"He's fine," said Francona. "I don't need to rate his bullpen session because he and [pitching coach] John [Farrell] talk. I think he was comfortable on the mound and things like that."

Following Tuesday's 14-3 thumping by the Red Sox, there seemed to be an air of anticipation for the Matsuzaka-Ichiro matchup.

"It's going to be exciting," said Sox center fielder Coco Crisp. "Two phenoms from their side of the world coming over to our side of the world, which is now their side of the world. It's going to be fun to watch. Dice-K is unbelievable. He controls all of his pitches and gets ahead with any of them. Ichiro, he has unbelievable bat control and eye coordination and it goes along with his defense and speed."

Hits should be hard to come by on both sides.

"It ought to be a great matchup," said Sox right fielder J.D. Drew. "I know Daisuke came out and threw a great game the last time he pitched. I know their guy did as well. We've got our work cut out for us as hitters. They definitely have a good offensive club and Daisuke, I think he showed all his pitches the last time he pitched, so it will be a lot of fun to watch."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0, 1.29 ERA)
Matsuzaka lived up to all of his advanced billing and more in his debut on Thursday, stifling the Royals to the tune of 10 strikeouts and one run over seven innings. This will be his first start at historic Fenway Park. Matsuzaka is certainly stretched out, as he threw 108 pitches in his debut while walking just one.

SEA: RHP Felix Hernandez (0-0, 3.00 ERA)
The final game Hernandez pitched as a 20-year-old just might have been the best game he's ever pitched. He shut out the Athletics on three hits over eight innings to win his first career Opening Day start, striking out a career-high 12 batters, allowing just two baserunners to reach scoring position. Hernandez turned 21 on Sunday. This is Hernandez's first career start at Fenway.

Player to watch
Kevin Youkilis has five hits in his last 12 at-bats.

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

On television
• NESN, ESPN2

On radio
• WRKO-680 AM, Spanish Baseball Network (Español)

Up next
• Thursday: Mariners (LHP Jarrod Washburn, 0-0, 3.00) at Red Sox (RHP Tim Wakefield, 0-1, 1.50), 4:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Angels (RHP John Lackey, 2-0, 0.75) at Red Sox (RHP Julian Tavarez, 0-1, 9.00), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Angels (RHP Kelvim Escobar, 1-1, 3.18) at Red Sox (RHP Curt Schilling, 1-1, 4.91), 3:55 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.