- The Washington Times - Monday, March 30, 2009

Daisuke Matsuzaka got a kick out of facing countryman Kenshin Kawakami in his first start since he helped Japan win the World Baseball Classic. Rich Harden also was feeling pretty good about his first start for the Chicago Cubs in two weeks.

Matsuzaka allowed two hits and an earned run over five innings in his return to the Boston Red Sox. Kawakami gave up a two-run homer to Rocco Baldelli for his only runs, and the Atlanta Braves rallied to beat the Red Sox 4-3 in 10 innings on Monday.

More than 30 Japanese media members in the press box made the game a bit more intense for the starters.

“With so many media, I guess I felt a little more excited,” Kawakami said through an interpreter. “If I was in Japan, I’d probably enjoy (the matchup) also.”

Kawakami, who was signed by the Braves this winter after starring in Japan, pitched six innings and gave up four hits in Kissimmee, Fla. He did not play in the WBC.

Matsuzaka, who was the MVP of the tournament, liked the timing of the pitching pairing as he adjusted from the pressure of the WBC to spring training.

“Luckily today, going up against Kenshin-san on the other side gave me a change to get revved up,” Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. “When I’m going up against any Japanese player, whether pitcher or position player, I’m always keeping an eye out on what kind of game they’re going to pitch or how they’re doing in the batter’s box.”

With the designated hitter being used, Kawakami didn’t get to hit against Matsuzaka. But the former MVP in Japan certainly showed again that he can get major league hitters out.

“I felt like I pitched well,” said Kawakami, who struck out four and walked two.

In Surprise, Ariz., Harden returned to the mound for the first time since March 15 because of food poisoning and gave up three homers and five runs in the Cubs’ 8-8, 10-inning tie with the Kansas City Royals.

Harden gave up four hits in 4 2-3 innings while walking two and striking out four.

“I’m feeling good and got my strength back,” he said. “I threw 80 pitches and was still feeling just as strong at the end of it, which is good. We’ll extend it a little more next time. My body is as strong as it’s going to be. I’m ready to go.”

Harden lost 7 pounds after eating tainted chicken salad.

“I’m starting to put some weight back on,” he said. “I’m still down a couple of pounds, but that’s it. I’m definitely feeling a whole lot stronger now and it’s back to normal, back to where I was before. My shoulder is feeling really strong, which is good.”

In other news:

_Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman was placed on the 15-day disabled list, ruling the career saves leader out for the start of the season. He strained his right oblique muscle after pitching an inning on March 13 and has had little activity for about three weeks.

_Atlanta traded Josh Anderson to the Detroit Tigers, increasing the chances that rookie Jordan Schafer will open the season as the Braves’ center fielder. In exchange for Anderson, who was out of options, Atlanta received minor league pitcher Rudy Darrow.

_Cha Seung Baek will miss his final Cactus League start and possibly the start of the season for the San Diego Padres because of a strained right forearm. Baek left a start Sunday after four innings, complaining of soreness.

_Reliever Will Ohman has agreed to a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The deal includes a club option for 2010.

_John Smoltz was back in the Braves’ clubhouse, visiting his old team before heading off for a round of golf with Tiger Woods. Smoltz signed with the Boston Red Sox in January, ending his 20-year tenure with Atlanta.

Athletics 9, Dodgers 5

At Glendale, Ariz., A’s third baseman Eric Chavez, who is rehabbing from shoulder surgery, played in his first back-to-back games in the field this spring. He doubled and walked in three trips to the plate.

Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez dropped a flyball on the warning track. “My gold glove is in jeopardy,” he said.

Mets 2, Orioles 1

At Port St. Lucie, Fla., New York’s Oliver Perez had his most encouraging outing of spring training, allowing four hits and one run in 6 2-3 innings.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel confirmed that Livan Hernandez will be the team’s fifth starter.

Tigers 3, Nationals 2

At Viera, Fla., Armando Galarraga struck out nine in five innings, and Clete Thomas and Ryan Raburn homered for Detroit.

Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-run homer for the Nationals, his first of the spring in 47 at-bats.

Pirates 3, Reds 2

At Bradenton, Fla., Pittsburgh’s Ross Ohlendorf gave up three hits over 5 1-3 innings, allowing only a run set up by a flyball lost in the sun by Nate McLouth.

Cardinals 2, Marlins 1

At Jupiter, Fla., St. Louis reassigned Chris Perez to the minor leagues, clearing the way for Jason Motte to get the bulk of the work as its closer.

Marlins pitcher Andrew Miller had his best outing of the spring, allowing one run and four hits in six innings.

Twins 3, Rays 2

At Fort Myers, Fla., Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza worked six innings, allowing three runs and eight hits against his former team.

Twins left-hander Glen Perkins gave up four hits, struck out four and walked one in six shutout innings, lowering his spring ERA to 1.73.

Yankees 3, Blue Jays 1

At Dunedin, Fla., Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston expressed concern about closer B.J. Ryan after he pitched a shaky eighth inning. Ryan gave up one run and two hits, including Angel Berroa’s RBI double to left-center. Gaston said he might consider making Scott Downs the closer.

Andy Pettitte worked 6 2-3 innings for the Yankees, allowing one run and five hits. The left-hander struck out seven and walked none.

Phillies 13, Astros 3

At Clearwater, Fla., Chan Ho Park made his final bid for the No. 5 spot in Philadelphia’s rotation, allowing two runs _ one earned _ and six hits in 5 2-3 innings. The 35-year-old right-hander finished his spring campaign with a 2.45 ERA in five games.

Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Eric Bruntlett all homered off Mike Hampton. Carlos Ruiz also connected.

Rockies 10, Diamondbacks 3

Tucson, Ariz., Brad Hawpe hit a three-run homer for Colorado and Todd Helton went 4-for-4 with two doubles, raising his spring average to .515.

Rangers 7, Giants 5, 10 innings

At Scottsdale, Ariz., Texas’ Kris Benson gave up three runs and six hits, struck out two and walked none. Benson, who has a 4.76 ERA in 17 innings this spring, hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2006 after rotator cuff surgery.

Brewers 9, Mariners 7

At Phoenix, Milwaukee’s Rickie Weeks had three more hits to push his hitting streak to eight games and 15 of 16.

Indians 5, Padres 2

At Goodyear, Ariz., Cleveland’s Travis Hafner hit his first homer since October shoulder surgery. He went 1-for-4 and is hitting .227 with five RBIs this spring.

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