Dice-K progressing slowly, steadily

Dice-K progressing slowly, steadily

TORONTO -- When the Red Sox get back from their road trip on Thursday, they will see a familiar face at Fenway in Daisuke Matsuzaka.

But it won't be a full welcome back for the right-hander. Instead, Dice-K, who has been stationed in Fort Myers, Fla., the past couple of weeks in his rehab from a right shoulder strain, will take a quick trip home to confer with the team's medical staff. He will also meet with manager Terry Francona and pitching coach John Farrell.

After that, Matsuzaka will go right back to Florida and continue the maintenance program that the Red Sox hope will allow the righty to at last return to the form that led to a combined 33-15 record over his first two seasons.

"Nothing's changed, because it's not supposed to [yet], but everything is still good," said Francona. "I know I've said it before -- he's done a great job of working."

Matsuzaka has yet to step back on a mound since his last start, which came on June 19.

"[He's been limited to] flat ground," Francona said. "I think the farthest he's gone is to 120 [feet]. When we see him again on Friday, we'll have a little better feel for where he's at."

As much as Matsuzaka wants to get back to the mound, Francona said he's been completely on board with the conservative program the club has laid out for him.

"I think we had a really good talk," Francona said. "I'm not sure we want to rein him in. We just want to get him in a position where, when he throws, he can throw and build. I think we're on the same page. But there's got to be a foundation, which I think we all agree with."

Much of the work Matsuzaka is doing in Florida is the type of conditioning he missed in Spring Training when he was instead training in Japan for the World Baseball Classic.

So Matsuzaka isn't using his time on the disabled list to simply build back his arm strength, but rather his entire body.

"It would be good for anybody," said Francona. "Normally, you can't take an opportunity in the middle of the year to kind of build a foundation, physically, because once you start, you're going. But we're trying to always turn something that's maybe not a positive into a positive. That's the best way we know how to do it."

The team has not announced a timetable for Matsuzaka's return, but late August to early September is probably a reasonable estimate, given his progress to date.

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