Francona: Dice-K has 'great day'

Francona: Dice-K has 'great day'

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Daisuke Matsuzaka had what Red Sox manager Terry Francona described as a "great day" on Monday, when the right-hander threw from about 180-200 feet and ended the session by tossing 25-30 pitches off the mound to a standing catcher.

Matsuzaka, recovering from tightness in his upper back, will likely get in a legit bullpen session by the end of the week. The 29-year-old right-hander -- given the green light to restart his throwing program exactly one week ago -- said through an interpreter that he's hoping that day will be Thursday, and added that he has no problems with his back right now.

Matsuzaka may not be ready by Opening Day, but Francona pointed out that Boston has plenty of off-days at the start of the season -- three in the first 10 days -- to be able to go with a four-man rotation. And he sounded quite pleased with Matsuzaka's progress two days before exhibition games start.

"That was about as good a day, I think, as you could have," Francona said. "I don't think you can throw the ball like that and not be totally healthy. So probably start thinking about toward the end of the week, getting him some real mound work where he's throwing some sides and throwing to hitters and going through that progression. But that was a real, real good day."

Mike Lowell, recovering from right thumb surgery, saw some actual pitches for the first time in Spring Training, hitting three rounds of about 15 swings each in the batting cages.

The 36-year-old third baseman, whose status with the club is undetermined with Adrian Beltre taking over his job, said the session "went fine," but he wouldn't elaborate any further. Francona said Lowell will take batting practice on the field on Tuesday, but he doesn't yet know when he'll actually get into some Grapefruit League games.

"There's got to be a progression," Francona said. "Not only with his thumb, but running the bases and repeating some things. I don't think we can put a timetable on it yet. I just don't think it's going to be in these next five, six days. I don't think that's realistic. I'm not sure that's in his best interest."

Mike Cameron, who came off the field on Sunday with minor tightness in his left groin, stayed away from outfield drills, but he hit in the cage and said he felt fine. He's not in the starting lineup for the Red Sox's exhibition-opening doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College at City of Palms Park on Wednesday.

"He felt better, just trying to continue that progression," Francona said. "But he's improved."

Francona added that lefty-hitting utility player Tug Hulett came into camp with a sore shoulder and is a little behind the others in terms of throwing. Hulett, who turned 27 on Sunday, was acquired from the Royals for a player to be named or cash considerations in November.

Hulett has experience at second base, shortstop, third base, left field and right, but he'll serve as the designated hitter against Boston College in Game 2 on Wednesday.

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