Dice-K cruising toward mid-March spring debut

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Thumbnail image for daisuke matsuzaka return.jpgDaisuke Matsuzaka looked strong during a lengthy bullpen session on Sunday afternoon and the Red Sox are beginning to map out a schedule for his spring game debut. 

Dan Barbarisi of the Providence Journal believes that debut may come on March 17 against the Mets or March 19 against the Pirates.  Either way, it’s good to hear that Matsuzaka will have about three weeks to get geared up for the start of the regular season.  The right-hander got off to a team-prescribed slow start this spring, but he launched 65 pitches on Sunday in a bullpen session and got a nice review from pitching coach John Farrell soon after.

“I’m encouraged from the standpoint he threw 65 pitches, and used all of
his pitches in the bullpen,” said Farrell.  “Right now it’s more of refining the timing
in his delivery and establishing a release point on each individual
pitch, as opposed from a health standpoint that he’s not feeling
anything, which he is not.”

Dice-K is hoping to improve on the 5.76 ERA that he posted in 12 starts last season.

Red Sox could go to arbitration hearing with Fernando Abad

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 16:  Fernando Abad #58 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the New York Yankees during the ninth inning at Fenway Park on September 16, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Red Sox are expecting to go to an arbitration hearing with left-handed reliever Fernando Abad, per Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski said there was a “decent chance” a hearing would be necessary after countering Abad’s $2.7 million request with $2 million.

Abad, 31, pitched just 12 2/3 innings for Boston after the club acquired him from Minnesota at the trade deadline last season. The lefty earned a cumulative 3.66 ERA, 4.2 BB/9 and 7.9 SO/9 for the two teams in 2016. He received $1.25 million in 2016 and will remain under club control (through arbitration) in 2017. A $2.7 million salary would be a hefty increase for the veteran reliever, who has seen a significant decline since he put up a 1.57 ERA for the Athletics in 2014 and who has not amassed more than 0.6 fWAR in any single season to date.

While the Red Sox aren’t close to settling with Abad, Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald reports that they may be closing in on a settlement with left-handed starter Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz filed at $5.7 million, while the Sox felt more comfortable at $3.6 million. The two are expected to meet somewhere in the middle to avoid an arbitration hearing later this winter.

Report: Braves sign Kurt Suzuki

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 20: Kurt Suzuki #8 of the Minnesota Twins hits against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Braves reportedly have a deal in place with free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki, per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that the contract is for one year, $1.5 million with up to $2.5 million in additional incentives.

Suzuki, 33, completed a three-year track with the Twins in 2016, slashing .258/.301/.403 with eight home runs in 373 PA. The veteran backstop likely won’t provide an offensive or defensive upgrade over current starter Tyler Flowers, but should give the Braves some depth at a position they’ve been looking to strengthen since the start of the offseason.

The team has yet to confirm the deal.