Dice-K Wants To Be There On Opening Day

matsuzaka dice-k

March 27 – 1:20 PM Update by David Conde

Adam Rubin of ESPN New York writes that Daisuke Matsuzaka decided to weigh in on the decision the Mets made to pay him $100,000 rather than name him the fifth starter. Matsuzaka said he has learned since arriving in the United States for the 2007 season that stuff happens.

“I’ve been here for several years now and have seen a lot of unexpected things happen,” Matsuzaka told ESPNNewYork.com through interpreter Jeff Cutler on Thursday. “I think this was just one of those things. This whole spring I was ready for anything to happen, so I wasn’t taken by surprise. It’s just baseball, I guess. I understand the situation of the team, too. I just have to accept it and move forward.”

Rubin adds that if Mejia starts April 4 and Niese starts April 6, the Mets can still decide to add Matsuzaka at that point and option Mejia to the minors, but if Matsuzaka started April 4 and Niese were unable to start April 6, Mejia would be ineligible for that outing.

This would allow the Mets to carry an extra bench player for at least the first five games of the season.

“There was an explanation along those lines,” Matsuzaka said. “I understood and sort of saw that coming, too. That was something, I understand the situation of the team.”

Matsuzaka’s last outing should have solidified him as the fifth starter, but he may just need to prove himself once more before the real games start.

“I’m confident that I’ll be there Opening Day,” Matsuzaka replied. “I’m confident that I can pitch at the major-league level. But all I can do for my next start is pitch well and make them believe that I’m a necessary asset to the team. That’s all I can do for now, I think. I think they’ll make a decision regarding what happens in the next few days, after those [Montreal] games.”

March 26 –  3:00 PM Update by Joe D.

The Mets agreed to pay Daisuke Matsuzaka his $100,000 retention bonus to give the team the option of starting him in the majors or minors.

Regarding Dice-K and Jenrry Mejia, Sandy Alderson told reporters that the Mets will choose the fifth starter “who gives us the best chance to win 90 games,” and not the one who happens to be pitching well at the moment. 

He added that paying Matsuzaka the $100K bonus for right to send him to the minors should not be interpreted that their preference is Mejia.

Still, Alderson isn’t prepared to make a final decision on the fifth starter yet and even if Jon Niese’s health is a variable, he will try to make choice between Matsuzaka and Mejia on Saturday.

So essentially, it’s still a two horse race…

March 26 – 7:00 AM

Daisuke Matsuzaka took the mound yesterday against the St. Louis Cardinals in what was likely his final Grapefruit League outing and shined. The man known as Dice-K made a strong bid for the Mets’ fifth starter role– pitching 6+ impressive innings in which he allowed one run on three hits, striking out five batters and walking three.

The 33-year old right-hander spoke with the media after the game, and as always ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin was on hand.

“I think I’ve done pretty much everything I can and shown what I can do out there,” Matsuzaka told ESPN through interpreter Jeff Cutler. “The decision is up to them now and we’ll see what happens.”

It seems almost a formality that Dice-K has won the final rotation spot, after a solid spring and with the Mets having to pay a $100,000 retention fee in order to option him to the minors. However, the organization is staying tight-lipped.

“It certainly gives him an edge, because he’s done it before, and he’s done it a lot. But certainly, with the way Jenrry threw yesterday, he’s got to be in that mix.” said Terry Collins after the game.

Monday’s impressive outing seemingly puts an end to the Dice-K/Jenrry Mejia debate. Surely now Mejia will be optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he’ll join an outstanding rotation that will also feature Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and Jacob deGrom.

While I understand that there will be some bemoaning from Mets fans over the decision to give the veteran the spot over the youngster, I think this is probably the right move. It isn’t waving the white flag on the season as some would be eager to point out, it’s merely choosing the guy best equipped for the job at the moment.

Mejia isn’t perfect. He’s battled command issues, and still has to prove he can stay healthy enough to take the ball every fifth day. No team goes through an entire season with five starting pitchers. Mejia will get his shot. Heck, with Niese’s health up in the air this may become a moot point very quickly.

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