The team transferred Matsuzaka from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list amid reports he has decided to have reconstructive surgery that could sideline him for at least 12 months.
“It’s looking more and more that he’s going to need to have the surgery,” Francona said before Friday night’s game against the Oakland A’s. “He is very driven to come back and help us next year.”
The Red Sox also appear to have lost lefty reliever Rich Hill for the season. He has a damaged ligament in his pitching elbow and, like Matsuzaka, likely will have Tommy John surgery. Boston placed him on the 15-day disabled list and called up lefty Tommy Hottovy from Triple-A Pawtucket.
Matsuzaka signed a six-year, $52 million contract with the Red Sox through the 2012 season in December 2006 after a brilliant career in Japan. Boston also had to pay $51.1 million to the Seibu Lions for the right to negotiate with him.
The investment has produced disappointing returns.
Matsuzaka’s best season came in 2007, when he was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA and finished fourth in the AL Cy Young voting.
But after going 31-15 with a 3.72 ERA in his first two seasons, Matsuzaka was 16-15 with a 5.03 ERA the past three years when he had four stints on the disabled list. In eight appearances this year, seven of them starts, he is 3-3 with a 5.30 ERA. In his career with Boston, he is 49-30 with a 4.25 ERA.
He did have two of his best outings in his career in consecutive starts, allowing one hit in seven scoreless innings on April 18 against Toronto and one hit in eight scoreless innings on April 23 at the Angels. But in four appearances since then, he allowed 12 earned runs and 16 hits in 15 1-3 innings.
Francona said that team officials met at length with Matsuzaka on Thursday and that he expected team physician Dr. Thomas Gill and renowned orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum, who met with Matsuzaka this week, to speak during Friday’s game. Yocum is the medical director of the Los Angeles Angels.
“If (Matsuzaka) is prepared to go that (surgical) route, we support that,” Francona said. “You never run and have the surgery right away. A lot of guys pitch when they’re not feeling right. That’s why you get second opinions.”
Before Friday’s game, Matsuzaka played soft toss in the outfield.
“I think he’s going to take this upon himself and kind of attack the rehab when it comes,” Francona said.
Hill, 31, plans to get a second opinion on his injury next week. He had become a key contributor for Boston after starting the season in Pawtucket.