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Notes: Dice-K prepared to pitch in Bronx

Notes: Dice-K prepared to pitch in Bronx

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BALTIMORE -- Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek chuckled at the suggestion that right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will pitch in the opener of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Friday night, might be unprepared for the madhouse that is a Boston-New York weekend in the Bronx.

"Go look at the guy," Varitek said, nodding to the contingent of Japanese media chronicling Matsuzaka's every move in Boston's Camden Yards clubhouse on Thursday afternoon. "He's got a circus following him every day. I think he's had to deal with that his whole life. It's not new for him."

Matsuzaka, who takes a 2-2 record and a 4.00 ERA into Friday's game, left the team on Thursday afternoon to get acclimated to New York. At Yankee Stadium, manager Terry Francona allowed, there will be a new mound and different surroundings.

But Francona has been impressed with the way Matsuzaka has adjusted to the Major Leagues in his first season stateside. And the manager isn't about to tinker with something that's been successful.

"He came from a background where they do some things differently," Francona said. "For us to bang his head against a wall and say, 'You're going to do it like this,' that would be wrong. It wouldn't make him as productive. We're learning. He's learning. He's been tremendous."

Matsuzaka hasn't blinked an eye at the notion of starting every five days; in Japan, a starter pitches every six days. Rainouts that have jumbled Boston's rotation, adding off-days, don't appear to have fazed him. The right-hander is settling into a workout regimen between starts, with pitching coach John Farrell watching closely.

Anticipating the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry from the Big Apple perspective after pitching against New York in Boston last week drew a workmanlike response from Matsuzaka earlier this week.

"I realized that having the opportunity to pitch against such a talented lineup is really a treat for a pitcher," Matsuzaka said. "So going to New York, as much as I am going to try to enjoy the experience, I hope to pitch well and hold them to as few runs as possible."

Francona isn't concerned about hitters making adjustments to Matsuzaka, but the Yankees are the first team to see the Japanese import twice -- and the first time was Sunday, when Matsuzaka surrendered six runs on eight hits over seven innings in a Red Sox victory.

"He's got a lot of different pitches. He commands a lot of different pitches," Francona said. "I think we can get a game plan and he can execute it. He has the ability to pitch backwards. He can pitch with his fastball. If he doesn't have a pitch, there's pitches he can throw. He's a good pitcher."

And one that's relishing the unique dynamic that Friday will present.

"I think that's why he signed and wanted to play here, because of this type of a rivalry. ... I think this is why he's here," Francona said.

Added Varitek: "It's always a good environment to experience. ... Like anybody else who hasn't been a part of it, he got a taste of it last weekend. And there's going to be a lot [more] of them."

Papelbon rested: Closer Jonathan Papelbon was warming in the Red Sox bullpen before the ninth inning on Wednesday night, preparing to protect a 4-1 lead and collect his seventh save. But when Boston scored twice in the ninth to erase the save opportunity, Papelbon took a seat.

The right-hander, who has yielded one hit in 7 1/3 scoreless innings over seven appearances, last pitched Sunday against the Yankees. Since pitching in four of five games, he's had three days idle.

"You get those little antsy moments, but the numbers are all going to unfold the same," Papelbon said. "You're going to go your days where you sit and you're going to go your days where you [pitch] three or four days in a row. It's the law of numbers, and it's a long season."

Papelbon's rested for another weekend against the Yankees, and if his hiatus continues another night, he might just pick up a ball and throw to some pretend batters in the 'pen.

"If I need to get my work in, I'll throw a bullpen session during the game if I know we're up or down by a lot and I know I'm not getting in," he said.

Getting his swings: Center fielder Coco Crisp, who sat out his fourth straight game on Thursday because of a strained left oblique muscle, grabbed a bat and headed for the indoor cages at Camden Yards.

"I've got to go hit," he said, brushing off reporters seeking an update on his condition. Wily Mo Pena started in Crisp's place.

Francona is hopeful Crisp can hit without pain -- and continue to feel OK as Thursday's game progresses.

The concern is whether Crisp's side will stiffen up. If not, he could play against the Yankees; if so, he could end up on the disabled list.

"Hopefully, he'll be OK," Francona said. "I don't think we have a problem waiting another day, But we don't want to get to the point where it's 10 days and we haven't had a player and we could have probably put him on the DL"

Coming up: Matsuzaka (2-2, 4.00 ERA) opens the three-game series at Yankee Stadium against left-hander Andy Pettitte (1-0, 1.78 ERA) at 7:05 p.m. ET. The Red Sox swept the Yankees last weekend at Fenway Park, their first three-game domination since 1990.

Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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