PORTLAND — Dice-K is coming to Hadlock Field.

Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka will pitch for the Portland Sea Dogs Saturday, Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine told reporters Tuesday before Boston’s game in Minnesota.

Matsuzaka, 31, will start for the Sea Dogs in their 1 p.m. game against the Reading Phillies. According to Sea Dogs officials, there are 1,900 tickets remaining for the game.

Recovering from Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery on his right elbow last year, Matsuzaka began a rehab assignment this week, featuring appearances in minor league games.

It is not known how long Matsuzaka will pitch on Saturday. In his first rehab appearance, on Monday with the advanced Class A Salem (Va.) Red Sox, Matsuzaka pitched four innings.

In that game, Matsuzaka gave up three runs and six hits. He allowed leadoff home runs in the first and second innings, but finished strong, retiring six of the last seven batters.

After Monday’s game, it was not clear where Matsuzaka was headed. He could have stayed with Salem, which is a level below the Double-A Sea Dogs. But Valentine said Dice-K’s next stop is Portland.

Sea Dogs assistant general manager Chris Cameron said the team has not heard from the Red Sox yet about Matsuzaka’s appearance, but expects confirmation soon.

The Sea Dogs can also expect a crowded press box. Eleven members of the Japanese media followed Matsuzaka to Salem on Monday.

When Matsuzaka began his rehab assignment, the Red Sox said it might be for five starts, so it is feasible Matsuzaka could make two starts in Portland. If everything goes well with his health on Saturday, his next start would likely be Thursday, May 3.

The Sea Dogs are home to the Trenton Thunder at 6 p.m. that night. Pawtucket, which is where Matsuzaka will eventually finish his rehab assignment, is at Toledo on May 3.

While this will be Matsuzaka’s first appearance at Hadlock Field, it is not his first time in a Sea Dogs uniform.

He made a rehab appearance with Portland on Aug. 30, 2009, when the Sea Dogs played the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in Manchester.

Matsuzaka has had a bittersweet career since coming to the U.S. in 2007. The Red Sox paid $103 million for Matsuzaka — $51 million to his Japanese team, and a $52 million, six-year contract for the pitcher.

He went 15-12 his first season, helping the Red Sox to a World Series title, and then 18-3 in 2008.

Since then, injuries and poor performance have combined for a 16-15 record over the past three seasons.

Matsuzaka’s 2011 season ended with his elbow injury on May 17. He underwent Tommy John surgery last June 10.

Now he is on the comeback trail, with at least one stop in Portland on Saturday.


Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases