Dice-K cuts batting practice short with stiff neck

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matsuzaka sunglasses.JPGIt’s probably safe to say we can take Daisuke Matsuzaka out of the mix to start the season in Boston’s rotation. Dice-K’s live batting practice session on Saturday was scratched due to a stiff neck. He threw just five pitches in the bullpen before shutting it down.

Today was going to be an important step forward for Dice-K, who was tentatively scheduled to appear in his first game action on Wednesday, likely against minor leaguers. That start will almost surely be pushed back now that Matsuzaka needs to return to Boston for some personal matters.

The Red Sox have taken it slow with Matsuzaka since he complained of some back stiffness at the start of camp in February.

Assuming Matsuzaka starts the season on the disabled list, Boston’s rotation will consist of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.