Indians 3, Reds 0

Daisuke Matsuzaka believes he can be the Dice-K of old, the one

who mystified hitters with his unorthodox delivery and arsenal of

deceptive pitches.

The Indians just need him to a dependable fifth starter.

Matsuzaka, nearly two years removed from Tommy John elbow

surgery, pitched two hitless innings in blustery conditions and

seven Cleveland pitchers combined on a one-hitter, leading an

Indians split squad to a 3-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds on

Sunday.

Once a $100 million curiosity in Boston, Matsuzaka was limited

to just 11 starts last season for the Red Sox, who parted ways with

the 32-year-old after six seasons. With at least one spot open in

their rotation, the Indians signed the Japanese right-hander on

Feb. 13 to a minor league contract, and will pay him $1.5 million

if he’s added to the 40-man roster this spring.

With winds gusting to 30 mph, Matsuzaka got off to a shaky start

in his debut, hitting Cincinnati’s Ryan Hanigan with his first

pitch before getting a double-play grounder on his second. He

allowed a walk in his second inning, but otherwise looked solid

during a 22-pitch outing, barely a warmup for someone who once

threw 250 pitches in a 17-inning game.

Scouts sitting behind home plate with radar guns said

Matsuzaka’s fastball topped out at 89 mph, but he’s not worried

about his speed this early in camp.

”That’s exactly where I expected my fastball to be at this

stage,” he said through a translator as more than two dozen

Japanese media members waited to speak with one of their country’s

biggest stars. ”The more I throw and the deeper we go into spring

training, I’m sure my velocity will also rise.”

Matsuzaka went just 1-7 with 8.28 ERA last season for the Red

Sox, but the Indians are hoping he can get somewhere close to being

the pitcher who won 33 games in his first two seasons in the

majors. Cleveland manager Terry Francona can vividly remember those

days when Dice-K was dealing.

”His stuff across the board was solid,” said Francona, who won

two World Series titles in Boston. ”He had the ability like no

other pitcher to wiggle out of jams. There could be bases loaded

and nobody out, we’d be on the edge of our seat and he wasn’t. He

got out of it like nobody’s business.”

Although the Indians have upgraded their roster with free-agent

signings, their rotation remains suspect.

Cleveland’s starters had the AL’s second-highest ERA (5.25) last

season and Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, the respective Nos.

1 and 2 arms, went a combined 20-32 with a 5.15 ERA. The club

signed Brett Myers, who pitched in relief last season, to be their

No. 3 starter with Zach McAllister the frontrunner for the fourth

spot.

Matsuzaka is among a group battling for the fifth spot that

includes Scott Kazmir, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, David Huff

and Corey Kluber.

McAllister also pitched two hitless innings as the Indians won

their third straight over the Reds, who only managed a single from

Jason Donald in the sixth inning after scoring 10 runs on 18 hits

Saturday.

”At least we got good pitching,” Reds manager Dusty Baker

said, sighting strong outings by Sam LeCure, Manny Parra, Jose

Arredondo and J.J. Hoover.

The Indians scored three runs in the eighth on a two-run,

wind-propelled double by Omir Santos and Carlos Moncrief’s RBI

single off Josh Ravin.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto walked twice, but the 2010 NL MVP

didn’t get a chance to test his surgically repaired left knee

running the bases. Votto still hasn’t decided if he will play for

Team Canada in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. The Reds are

hosting the Canadian team at their complex next week.

For Matsuzaka, the two-inning stint represented a fresh start.

The Indians have rolled the dice that he can be what he once was,

and he’s sure it’s possible.

”I’m really happy that they have those expectations of me,” he

said, ”and I would like to answer to them.”

NOTES: With Francona in Maryvale watching Carrasco, Kazmir and

Bauer, Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar managed the team in

Goodyear. … Indians DH/1B Jason Giambi admires how Japanese stars

like Matsuzaka and Ichiro handle the weight of expectations at home

while playing in the U.S. ”I have the utmost respect for them,”

he said. ”It’s unheard of the support they have, and they want to

make a good impression. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s a whole

different ball of wax.”… Jimenez and Masterson will make their

spring debuts on Monday against Oakland.