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Dice-K clears up controversial comments

Dice-K regrets causing controversy

ST. PETERSBURG -- Looking noticeably trimmer and firmer than when he last pitched for the Red Sox on June 19, right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka showcased some newfound command of the English language as a way of letting the fans know that he regrets the controversy that developed last week.

Matsuzaka, who had never said more than a couple of words of English to the media since joining the Red Sox in December 2006, began his session with the Boston media by delivering a message that he wanted the fans to hear. Interpreter Masa Hoshino stood by his side, but Matsuzaka did all of the talking.

"I want to clear up a few things," Matsuzaka said. "It was not my intention to make the meeting public or to criticize the Red Sox. The person who wrote the article is my old, old friend. I still trust her and this has never happened before. Training [is] no problem. [I have] no problem with the Red Sox. We will work it all out. I want to thank all my fans for their support and I can't wait to see all of you when I go back to Fenway Park. Thank you."

Last week, an article was published in Japan -- and later translated into English -- in which Matsuzaka was quoted as saying the Red Sox's training methods had been counterproductive to his season and overall development since coming to the Majors.

A few days later, Matsuzaka -- who has been spending most of his rehab time at the team's Spring Training complex in Fort Myers, Fla. -- issued a statement to say that many of his comments were greatly misunderstood.

After his opening statement, Matsuzaka utilized Hoshino for the rest of his interview session. The right-hander acknowledged, however, that further mastery of the English language could avoid such communication breakdowns in the future.

"I'm very well aware of all the difficulties and communication because of the language barrier, and it is a source of stress for the coaches and for the manager," Matsuzaka said. "It's just another obstacle to having good communication. So I'm aware of that, and recently, bit by bit admittedly, I've been taking steps to study a little bit of English every day."

In the near future, Matsuzaka hopes to be doing his best form of communicating via the pitcher's mound at Fenway Park. On Tuesday, Matsuzaka will throw his first bullpen session since being shut down. From there, it should be a pretty rapid progression.

Matsuzaka will return at some point in September, perhaps by the earlier point of the month. Red Sox manager Terry Francona pointed out that because of expanded rosters in September, Matsuzaka can probably return earlier than he would have otherwise.

"When you're in September, a four- or five-inning start doesn't kill you," Francona said. "It's sort of hard to have a guy in July when you know four or five might be the max. In September, you can do that. You have bullpen arms."

As for his physical condition, Matsuzaka seemed enthused.

"I think you can tell, just sort of by taking a look at me," said Matsuzaka. "But compared to really the beginning of the season, I feel much fitter, and just gradually every day, I've been feeling stronger and more ready physically."

For all the adversity he's endured this year -- particularly on the mound, where he is 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA -- Matsuzaka is confident he will emerge stronger from it.

"Yes, definitely," said Matsuzaka. "I want to keep playing baseball for a long, long time. I think those experiences I've had this year that have been difficult are all very, very important and very, very meaningful. And I think that precisely because there has been so much to learn -- I just hope that I can take those lessons and apply them to my career down the line."

Clearly, Francona is excited about the type of weapon Matsuzaka might be able to be down the stretch. Beyond Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, the Red Sox have struggled to get quality starts of late.

"I think he feels pretty good," Francona said. "He's been doing a great job down there. He looks terrific. That's good."

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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