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Matsuzaka set to rejoin Boston rotation

In what Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell described as a final "tune-up" before his return to the rotation on Saturday, right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka completed a simulated game Monday at Rogers Centre.

Matsuzaka threw 41 strikes among his 70 pitches. He had a bumpy first inning, in which he walked two batters and threw only 11 of 22 pitches for strikes.

br />Matsuzaka is replacing knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in the Boston rotation, beginning Saturday in Baltimore.

"The last three times out, he's done a much better job with his fastball in the bottom of the zone," Farrell said afterward. "His breaking ball -- both his cutter and slider -- have shown later action and a little more power.

"There was good finish to all of his pitches. ... Physically, he's ready to go."

It would be hard to glean too much from Dice-K's performance in the controlled setting. The stadium was virtually empty. Manager Terry Francona called balls and strikes.

Matsuzaka faced left-handed-hitting outfielders Jeremy Hermida and Jonathan Van Every. The lone right-handed hitter was Ino Guerrero, an assistant to the major league staff.

Farrell said Wakefield will be used in middle and long relief. Wakefield didn't appear happy with the decision when it became official Sunday.

"We don't take for granted his performance as a starter over a long period of time," Farrell said of Wakefield. "But (we are) trying to maximize the pitchers that are on our staff, what's the best fit. It might not be the most agreeable fit, but he's a professional and knows that there's a current arrangement -- we don't view it as a long-term one -- that has him in that position."