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Two pitchers progress toward recovery

Two pitchers progress toward recovery

SEATTLE -- John Smoltz celebrated his 42nd birthday Friday doing what he loves to do: pitching.

Smoltz, recovering from right shoulder surgery, took another step back to the big leagues at extended spring training in Florida on Friday. The veteran right-hander threw two innings and "looked great," according to the reports Red Sox manager Terry Francona received.

"It went real well," said Francona, who added that Smoltz struck out three batters in the first inning and got "six or seven outs" in the second inning of a simulated game.

The next plan for Smoltz is to come back Wednesday and pitch three innings as he continues to build toward a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.

"It's good to get his legs under him with his arm feeling good," Francona said. "That's huge."

Francona said that right now Smoltz is adjusting to game situations, something he hasn't experienced since his last mound appearance, June 2 of last year for the Atlanta Braves.

"There are things he hasn't dealt with in a while, like guys stealing, throwing to first base," the skipper said. "He's just getting up to game speed."

Meanwhile, Boston's other injured starter, Daisuke Matsuzaka, made his third rehab start with Triple-A Pawtucket at Toledo. Matsuzaka threw five innings (70 pitches, 48 strikes) and yielded two runs (both earned) on three hits and a walk, striking out nine. He suffered the loss with Toledo winning 6-0 over the PawSox.

In three rehab outings, Matsuzaka has given up two runs in 11 2/3 innings.

"We'll meet him when we go back home," Francona said. "He'll play catch tomorrow with [clubhouse attendant] Pookie Jackson at Fenway."

The Red Sox begin a six-game homestand against the Blue Jays and then the Mets on Tuesday night. Which of those games Matsuzaka will start is to be determined.

Doug Miller 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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