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.

The Red Sox are calling up Rafael Devers

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Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox are calling up third base prospect Rafael Devers. He’ll be in Seattle for the start of the three-game set between the Sox and Mariners.

Devers, 20, is the top prospect in the Boston system according to MLB Pipeline. He has spent most of his season with Double-A Portland, where he hit .300/.369/.575 with 18 home runs and 56 RBI in 320 plate appearances. He was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket after the All-Star break. In eight games with Pawtucket, Devers hit .355/.412/.581 with two home runs and four RBI.

There is still just over a week until the non-waiver trade deadline, but perhaps the Red Sox seem confident Devers can be the answer to the third base problem.

Stephen Strasburg exited Sunday’s start with an apparent injury

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It’s not a good day if you’re a star starting pitcher. First Clayton Kershaw, now Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals’ right-hander lasted only two innings in Sunday’s start against the Diamondbacks, leaving with an apparent injury. Strasburg held the D-Backs to a hit and three walks with two strikeouts without allowing a run. Matt Grace relieved him in the third inning.

Including Strasburg’s two innings on Sunday, he’s carrying a 3.25 ERA with a 141/37 K/BB ratio in 121 2/3 innings.

The Nationals should pass along word on Strasburg’s condition shortly.