Matsuzaka welcomes the White Sox

Matsuzaka welcomes the White Sox to Boston

Roughly three and a half months into the season, the Daisuke Matsuzaka era in Boston appears to be on even ground.

Matsuzaka's six-year mega-contract -- and record posting fee, which together amounted to a $103 million investment by the Red Sox -- now looks like a bargain, judging by the standards of baseball's offseason spending spree.

Matsuzaka, who will welcome the White Sox to Fenway on Tuesday in the first game between the two teams this season, is 11-6 with a 3.94 ERA. His 125 strikeouts are tied for third-best in the league.

Some things have changed. Matsuzaka's legendary between-start throwing sessions have been reduced in length and frequency, sometimes at the team's urging. Most starting pitchers tend to cut down on their off-day workloads this late in the season.

"We pick spots," said manager Terry Francona. "Again, at the risk of guys losing command. But it's almost like taking batting practice in July and August. It can be more of an exercise in routine than in actually really needing it.

"I think he's getting into a groove where command has not been an issue," he added.

Meanwhile, Matsuzaka leads the team in innings and has averaged more than 110 pitches per start, drawing criticism from his agent, Scott Boras.

Team efforts to cut down on Matsuzaka's off-day workload may reflect similar concerns, or at least recognition that those workouts are less necessary in July than in April. During the season's first month, Matsuzaka supplemented throwing with an intense running regimen, intentionally fatiguing himself.

"Again, you're talking about April," Francona said. "[There's] a lot of time in between starts. Maybe a little extra adrenaline. [He's] yanking some pitches. That hasn't really been happening [lately].

"I think there's a pretty good comfort zone with his work schedule. And again, like everybody else, we constantly talk about it and monitor it and get feedback. I think we're all pretty comfortable where we're at."

Javier Vazquez will get the nod for the White Sox, who have bottomed out at 42-51, with a 17-26 mark since June 1. In 2006, the Red Sox won the season series between the two teams, 4-2.

Pitching matchup
CWS: RHP Javier Vazquez (6-5, 3.77 ERA)
Vazquez is a maddening talent whose numbers have never lived up to his strong strikeout-to-walk ratio, mostly because of his habit of yielding home runs. Under the cover of a losing season, however, Vazquez is having his best year since he left the Expos for the Yankees in 2003. Opponents are only hitting .231 against him in 121 2/3 innings, and his 114 strikeouts rank seventh in the American League.

BOS: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (11-6, 3.94 ERA)
Against the White Sox, Matsuzaka must defuse speculation that his workload has affected his recent performance. Over his past two starts, he has allowed 10 earned runs in 11 innings, including 19 hits and five home runs. During that span, his ERA has ballooned from 3.53. The White Sox have been one of the Majors' worst run-scoring teams this season, but they've been middle-of-the-pack in the last month, owing to Paul Konerko's offensive resurgence.

Player to watch
No Boston regular has hit Vazquez harder than J.D. Drew. The right-fielder has hit .391 with three homers against Vazquez in 23 career at-bats.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WRKO 680, WROL (Español)

Up next
• Friday: White Sox (Jose Contreras, 5-11, 5.32) at Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 12-3, 3.35), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: White Sox (John Danks, 6-6, 4.81) at Red Sox (Kason Gabbard, 3-0, 3.38), 3:55 p.m. ET
• Sunday: White Sox (Jon Garland, 7-6, 3.88) at Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 10-9, 4.69), 2:05 p.m. ET

Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.