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Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka left his start against Seattle on Tuesday night before the bottom of the fifth inning with what the team later said was a tired shoulder.
The 11th Red Sox pitcher to win his first eight decisions in a season allowed three runs — two earned — on four hits in four innings. Then, after two seemingly routine warmup pitches before the bottom of the fifth, he appeared to briefly grab his lower back.
Yet Red Sox spokesman Henry Mahegan said late Tuesday that "shoulder fatigue" ended Matsuzaka's chance to join Josh Beckett as the second Boston pitcher since 1971 to begin a season 9-0.
When asked after the Red Sox lost 4-3 to the Mariners if he would be able to make his next start, Sunday or Monday at Boston, Matsuzaka said through an interpreter: "It's hard to say. We are able to assess the situation again tomorrow."
Roger Clemens has the best start in Red Sox history, 14-0 in 1986.
Boston manager Terry Francona said his training staff will ice Matsuzaka's shoulder Wednesday and "let it cool down" before reassessing the injury.
"You are always going to err on the side of caution," Francona said. "I hope we never change that."
The Red Sox have been without starter and six-time All-Star Curt Schilling since early March because of shoulder weakness in his pitching shoulder. Josh Beckett missed the first six games of this season following a lower back strain.
After Matsuzaka threw the two warmup tosses before the fifth, catcher Jason Varitek went to the mound and Francona soon joined them. A moment later, Francona summoned a trainer. After a brief discussion with all infielders huddled around, Francona called on David Aardsma from the bullpen. The manager and the trainer then escorted Matsuzaka back to the dugout. The Japanese pitcher then went to the clubhouse.
The 27-year-old Matsuzaka, who struck out two, said he pitched through a similar injury in 2000 or 2001, his second and third seasons with Seibu in Japan's Pacific League. That time, as he did Tuesday, Matsuzaka said he felt "off" in the bullpen before the game. But he successfully pitched deep into the game in that previous painful start, and the issue ended soon after.
But he decided to play it safe Tuesday.
"I wasn't at my best. After pitching the fourth inning, I definitely felt there was something wrong, and I had a conversation with the coaching staff," he said. "I went out for the fifth inning to give it a try, but felt it was best to stop there.
"With so much of the season left, I thought that it would be best to come out of the game at that point."
Francona said he decided Matsuzaka would not begin the fifth, but the pitcher ran out of the dugout past an unaware Francona to try warmup tosses.
"Since this is something I have experienced in the past, I'm not overly concerned with the situation right now," he said, before bowing and politely cutting off questions.
Catcher Jason Varitek has only played with Matsuzaka for 15 months, but he knew his pitcher wasn't himself Tuesday.
"You couldn't tell so much by the rotation of the ball, but by his demeanor," Varitek said. "Hopefully they caught it early enough where we don't lose him for an extended period of time."
This program aired on May 28, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.
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