September 22, 2014

Elyria
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Tribe rolls dice, signs pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka

CLEVELAND — With at least one spot open in his rotation, new Indians manager Terry Francona will give a pitcher he knows well a shot to win a starting job.

Matsuzaka

Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka has agreed to a minor league contract with Cleveland. Matsuzaka, who pitched for Francona with the Boston Red Sox, must pass a physical for the deal to be finalized.

The Indians’ pitchers and catchers reported to camp in Goodyear, Ariz. on Sunday, with physicals scheduled to take place today.

The 32-year-old Matsuzaka would get a $1.5 million, one-year contract if added to the 40-man roster and would be able to earn $2.5 million in performance bonuses based on innings and starts.

He has won 50 major league games since signing a $52 million, six-year contract with Boston as free agent in 2007. Dice-K went 33-15 with a 3.72 ERA in 61 starts for Boston in 2007-08. However, he has been limited to 18 starts and 83 innings the last two seasons after right elbow surgery in 2011.

Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Brett Myers are the only pitchers with guaranteed spots in Cleveland’s rotation. Zach McAllister comes to camp favored to win the No. 4 spot, leaving Matsuzaka in a group with Scott Kazmir, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber and David Huff fighting it out this spring.

Matsuzaka pitched in Japan from 1999-2006, going 108-60 with a 2.95 ERA for the Seibu Lions. The Red Sox won a bidding war over several teams to sign him and he went 15-12 in 32 starts in his first season in the AL.
He was dominant in 2008, going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA and recording 154 strikeouts in 167 ⅔ innings. He finished fourth in voting for the AL Cy Young Award.

But Matsuzaka’s numbers have dropped alarmingly in the past four years. He has gone 17-22 with a 5.53 ERA and underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in June 2011. He began last year in the minors before joining the Red Sox and going 1-7 with an 8.28 in 11 starts.

If added to the big league roster, he would be able to earn $700,000 based on innings — $100,000 each for 50, 75, 100, 120, 140, 150 and 160 — and $1.8 million based on starts — $200,000 apiece for eight, 10, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27 and 30.

The Indians’ preliminary agreement with Matsuzka comes one day after the club signed 42-year-old slugger Jason Giambi to a minor league deal.

Giambi could fill a hole at designated hitter for Francona, who has said he’s willing to use several players in that role. Giambi spent the past three-plus seasons as a part-time player for Colorado.

A five-time All-Star and former AL MVP, Giambi has 429 career homers — just one in 89 at-bats for the Rockies last season.