FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Daisuke Matsuzaka's next small step toward getting ready for the 2010 season was over before it even got started.
The right-hander's scheduled live batting practice session on Saturday was scratched after he experienced some neck stiffness while warming up in the bullpen. There was no immediate timetable set for when Matsuzaka would try again.
"I didn't throw live batting practice today due to stiffness in my neck," Matsuzaka said in a statement. "As for my schedule going forward, I'm going to see how I feel tomorrow, meet with the coaching staff and decide at that point."
Matsuzaka was supposed to face live hitters for the first time all spring in a backfield batting practice session at City of Palms Park. He'd been coming back slow from a back issue, and this session was supposed to pave the way to pitching in a Grapefruit League game next week, likely on Wednesday. How this delay will impact his schedule remains to be seen.
"It kind of spasmed on him," manager Terry Francona said. "He talked to [pitching coach] John Farrell and decided to shut it down. We'll go day to day on it. He came in and got work done. We'll wait and see how it shows up tomorrow and when he feels good, we'll repeat what we were going to do today. I don't know if it'll be tomorrow or the next day or the next day. We'll just see how he feels."
The Red Sox have been extremely cautious in bringing their right-hander along from his back issue, having thrown only bullpen sessions to date. There isn't believed to be any connection between the back injury and the stiff neck, so there was no real cause for long-term concern.
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"I don't think it's anything besides a stiff neck," Francona said. "I don't know that we need to be conservative as long as he's OK. If he's not comfortable, that wouldn't be a good thing. We'll see when it goes away."
What it does do is slow the timetable for Matsuzaka's return even more. Even if he had thrown the BP session Saturday morning, the odds of him being completely ready for the start of the regular season seemed slim. Clay Buchholz, who threw three scoreless innings in Saturday's win over the Pirates, appears to have a spot in the rotation, at least when things get going in April. Not having Matsuzaka back for the opener, though, was never the primary focus.
"I don't think Opening Day was the end-all, be-all," Francona said. "We just want to get him ready. I don't think that's the biggest decision we have right now. We just want to get him out on the mound and get him going so we can get him stretched out."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.