Chalk another signing up to Terry Francona
It's definitely not standard procedure to introduce a minor-league signing to the media, but Daisuke Matsuzaka isn't your ordinary minor-league free agent. Matsuzaka came to the US six years ago after a brilliant career in Japan. He was (and still is) a household name in Japan, so when he reported to camp, he needed to meet the media. 20 Japanese reporters attended today's press conference.
The most interesting portions of the conference came when Matsuzaka gave his reasons for choosing Cleveland over other clubs:
Matsuzaka had three offers, but chose the Indians because he wanted to be reunited with Francona and he wanted to pitch in the American League.
"I want to pitch against Boston," he said.
Well, the Indians do play the Red Sox a couple weeks into the season, so if wants a chance to pitch against them, he'll need to make the club. The Indians do not have to add him to the 25-man roster immediately, which gives them some flexibility, though the contract is structured so that the Indians need to make the call by March 26th. If he accepts the minor-league assignment, they owe him a $100,000 bonus, and if he's still in the minors on June 1st, he can opt out of his contract.
I get the sense that Matsuzaka is going to make the club if he is truly healthy and if his stuff is where it was before the elbow injury. If he passes those two tests, and the rest of the rotation stays healthy, that leaves the Indians with having to make a decision: do they demote Carlos Carrasco (who is healthy after Tommy John surgery in Sep 2011) and Zach McAllister (who ended last season as the club's best starting pitcher). Things do have a way of working themselves out, so let's wait until mid-March to start wringing our hands.