GLENDALE, Ariz. – A day after getting a vote of confidence from his manager, Daisuke Matsuzaka came through with a solid outing.
Making his final spring start, Matsuzaka allowed two runs and five hits over 5 1-3 innings in the Cleveland Indians' 5-4 loss to the White Sox on Wednesday.
"The major thing was throwing strikes with all my pitches," Matsuzaka said. "And I felt like I was on the same page with (catcher Lou) Marson."
Matsuzaka opened with four scoreless innings before the White Sox scored two runs in the fifth on Gordon Beckham's RBI single to left and Alejandro De Aza's bunt single between Matsuzaka and first base that scored Dewayne Wise. Two of the five hits allowed by Matsuzaka didn't get out of the infield.
"I don't know what my velocity was but I was able to get swings and misses, so that's a sign that things are headed in the right direction," Matsuzaka said. "I could tell my offspeed pitches were working off my fastball. That's a good sign, too."
Matsuzaka and Matt Capps agreed to minor league contracts on Tuesday after being released from their previous deals with the Indians, who used the moves to get around the baseball labor contract provision that requires a $100,000 retention bonus if a player is not released by Tuesday or guaranteed a spot on the opening-day roster or disabled list.
Matsuzaka and Capps will stay in Indians camp until Saturday before being reassigned to Triple-A Columbus.
"I'll do what I need to do down there so that whenever I do get called up I'll be ready to contribute," Matsuzaka said. "Of course, the earlier the better, but that's not for me to decide. That's for the front office to decide. All I can do is be ready when I do get called up."
Slowed by a strained calf, Matsuzaka had allowed two runs in eight innings over his previous four spring outings. On Tuesday, Indians manager Terry Francona said he believes Matsuzaka can be the Dice-K he knew when they were together in Boston.
"Dice-K, I tried to remind him of this," Francona said. "He's two years removed now from Tommy John (surgery). There's no reason he can't be the Dice-K that won 18 games. He just needs some repetition and some confidence, and he's got to remember who he is. I know when he used to take the ball and take the mound, he always felt like he was going to win. He needs to get that back."
Cleveland's rotation includes Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Zach McAllister and Scott Kazmir. Matsuzaka jumps into the mix of rotation candidates with Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber.
Matsuzaka was a combined 33-15 with a 3.72 ERA in 2007 and 2008 for the Red Sox. Matsuzaka underwent Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow in June 2011, and his production has been affected by inconsistencies and injuries. He was 17-22 with a 5.53 ERA over the past four seasons.
Francona liked how Matsuzaka established his offspeed stuff and "managed his pitches."
And he sees more confidence with each outing.
"I actually do, yeah," Francona said. "I think that's to be expected. That's why we wanted to re-sign him, bring him back and let him pitch in Triple-A, and see where it takes him."
Matt Langwell walked Steve Tolleson with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to give the White Sox the win. Utility infielder Angel Sanchez hit a two-run homer, his second homer in two days, to tie the game in the eighth.
NOTES: White Sox SS Alexei Ramirez suffered a bruised right shoulder when he was hit in the right shoulder by a pitch from Matsuzaka and left the game. ... Indians All-Star SS Asdrubal Cabrera (mid-back spasms) missed a fourth consecutive day and isn't expected back until Thursday at the earliest. ... Cleveland returned first baseman Chris McGuiness, who was acquired from Texas in the Rule 5 Draft, to the Rangers for a cost of $25,000. ... Chicago RF Alex Rios missed a fifth straight day with lower back stiffness. Rios is optimistic about playing in one of two exhibitions in Milwaukee on Friday or Saturday. ... RHP Jesse Crain tested his strained adductor for the second time in three days, giving up two runs in one inning. Crain is throwing pain free and could make the opening-day roster. . Former White Sox and Kansas City Royals star Bo Jackson will throw out the first pitch of the Sox-Royals opener on Monday in Chicago.