Matsuzaka to start rehab assignment

Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is set to begin a rehab assignment as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery performed last June.

Matsuzaka will have a limit of roughly 75 pitches when he takes the mound next Monday for Salem of the Carolina League. He recently threw 59 pitches in an extended spring training outing.

"Daisuke feels really good," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "He's ready to start dealing with competition rather than rehabilitation."

Valentine added that Matsuzaka, if all goes well, will make about five minor league rehab starts before he is considered for a return to the majors.

Matsuzaka last pitched for the Red Sox on May 16 of last year. He had the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm reconstructed by noted surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum about a month later.

The right-hander was 3-3 with a 5.30 earned run average in eight games last year before the injury. He owns a career mark of 49-30 with a 4.25 ERA in five seasons with the Red Sox. His six-year, $52 million contract expires after 2012.