By the time Daisuke Matsuzaka made his first career relief appearance in the wee hours of Thursday morning at Fenway Park, it already was past lunch hour in his native Japan.
But in any time zone, Matsuzaka's bullpen cameo wasn't successful.
Every reliever, save unavailable Bobby Jenks (right arm cramp), had pitched by the time Francona asked Matsuzaka to head to the bullpen in the 12th inning of the game against the Angels. Matsuzaka, scheduled to start Friday after leaving his previous start last Friday night with stiffness in his right elbow, obliged, even though he clearly isn't comfortable pitching in relief.
Matsuzaka loaded the bases on singles by Howie Kendrick and Peter Bourjos and a two-out walk to Erick Aybar. Bobby Abreu singled through the right side of the infield to score the go-ahead runs in the longest game (5 hours) at Fenway Park since a 14-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sept. 10, 2008. The Angels prevailed 5-3.
Matsuzaka declined to comment after the game, but his teammates weren't shy about their appreciation of his efforts.
"It took a lot of guts on his part," reliever Daniel Bard said. "He took one for the team."
Added catcher Jason Varitek, "This entire team's hat goes off to him just for taking the ball. Period."
Francona said the Red Sox aren't sure whether Matsuzaka, who threw 20 pitches, still will be able to start the series opener against the Twins. Regardless, it seems likely the Red Sox will need to make a roster move to add reinforcements to an exhausted pitching staff.
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