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Notes: Confidence in Dice-K

Notes: Confidence in Dice-K

ANAHEIM -- When Daisuke Matsuzaka walked off the mound following just 4 2/3 innings of work in his first postseason start on Friday night, it was fair to say the outing was a disappointment for a man who had been legendary on the big-game stage throughout his years in Japan.

However, Red sox manager Terry Francona, upon two days of reflection, still seemed to have plenty of confidence in what Matsuzaka will deliver going forward this October. If anything, Matsuzaka was probably too cautious in his performance against the Angels, working his pitch count all the way to 96.

Was Matsuzaka guilty of nibbling?

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"I think the better way [to put it] is maybe pitching away from contact," said Francona. "He gets in certain situations and maybe tries to throw the perfect pitch when he doesn't have to. And then he gets into deeper counts where you do have to throw [pitches]. And after you've shown really good hitters five or six pitches, you do have to almost make that perfect pitch."

Though Matsuzaka has pitched plenty of quality outings during a 15-win season, his growing pains are still evident.

"And again, I don't know if that will change next week," said Francona. "I do think that with the experiences of this year, we'll see a better pitcher next year. I just think that's part of learning this league. I wouldn't be surprised if last year his strike zone was different. He made a pitch to [Orlando] Cabrera, second hitter of the game, looked like strike three. It was a good pitch.

"I don't think he commanded his fastball as well as he needs to. I don't think they hit a lot of balls hard. They hit the ball to second base that [Dustin] Pedroia goes down and can't get up, so it's first and third. Even the double hit the warning track. I think you have to kind of keep things in perspective. But I also think if you throw 96 pitches in four innings, you're giving hitters a lot of looks."

If the Angels can stretch this series out, Matsuzaka will pitch Game 5 on Wednesday at Fenway. Otherwise, he would wait until the American League Championship Series to take the ball again.

"He came out yesterday and did his normal day after [throwing], which was good," said Francona. "Again, [with a] long flight, there's a couple of reasons [to work out], just to get the flight out of your legs. But then pitchers need to stay on a schedule and it's easy to get out of a schedule when your travel is so screwy. But he came out and got his stuff done. He would throw a normal two days before if necessary."

Progress for Wake: There was more encouraging news on the Tim Wakefield front. The veteran knuckleballer, who is not on the roster for the Division Series because of an injury on the back of his right shoulder, threw a side session during Saturday's optional workout.

"He threw about 45 pitches and did OK," said Francona. "As he got into about the last 20, he loosened up, and the next step will probably be a couple of days of throwing and we'll have him face some hitters, like a simulated game."

If the Red Sox can advance to the ALCS, they are hopeful Wakefield can be activated.

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Gagne not forgotten: Though Eric Gagne did not play a role in the heroics of the bullpen during Friday's win, Francona said it was not a sign that he doesn't have faith in the right-hander.

How does Gagne fit in right now?

"Well, depending on where we are, same role [as in the season]," said Francona. "We got [to the bullpen] early, we had guys lined up. Sometimes the order, I think, can be a little bit misleading if you don't ask me. Someone said something about not having confidence in him. Sometimes there's some things that lead into that. We're not going to shy away from pitching him."

Incidentally, if Friday's game had gone into extra innings, Mike Timlin would have pitched the 10th, followed by Gagne and Jon Lester.

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

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