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Indians release Daisuke Matsuzaka

CLEVELAND – The Indians released right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka yesterday at his request, giving the Japanese veteran a chance to catch on with another team after failing to secure a spot in Cleveland’s rotation.

Matsuzaka has spent the entire season at Triple-A Columbus after failing to win a spot in Cleveland’s rotation during spring training.

After working through early-season injuries, Matsuzaka has pitched well in recent weeks, going 4-4 with a 3.56 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 10 starts for the Clippers since July 2. But with the Indians’ rotation currently packed with solid starters, he’s hoping to find work elsewhere for the stretch run.

“We didn’t have an immediate major league opportunity for Daisuke,” Cleveland General Manager Chris Antonetti said in the dugout in Anaheim before the Indians’ game against the Angels. “He had been throwing well in Triple-A, and thought that he may have a better opportunity elsewhere, so he asked for his release, and we granted it.”

Antonetti said he isn’t certain whether Matsuzaka already has a new destination lined up, but he has been speaking regularly with Matsuzaka’s agent, Scott Boras.

The Indians signed the 32-year-old Matsuzaka to a minor league deal in February after he spent six seasons with Boston, but Matsuzaka didn’t make the 40-man roster. He was released before re-signing with Cleveland.

“Early in the season, there were a number of things that went wrong physically, where he got pushed back, so he was never really a candidate to pitch,” said Indians Manager Terry Francona, who also was Matsuzaka’s manager with the World Series-winning Red Sox in 2007.

“I don’t know if it’s unfortunate,” Francona added. “It’s good for him to log innings for his career. Just giving him a chance to maybe go somewhere is good for him.”

Matsuzaka made an immediate splash with the Red Sox, winning 33 games and a World Series ring during his first two seasons after Boston won a lucrative competition for his services from Japan’s Seibu Lions.

Matsuzaka has been slowed by elbow issues since 2009, and he won only 17 games over the past four seasons for the Red Sox. He underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2011, returning to go 1-7 in 11 starts with Boston last season.

His velocity was noticeably down at spring training with the Indians, and veteran Scott Kazmir beat him out for the fifth spot in Cleveland’s rotation. Matsuzaka then struggled with a strained oblique muscle while in the minors before returning to better form.

The second-place Indians’ rotation looks sharp while they chase Detroit in the AL Central race. Justin Masterson, Zach McAllister, Ubaldo Jimenez, rookie Danny Salazar, Kazmir and injured right-hander Corey Kluber are all in front of Matsuzaka in the majors.

“I think Daisuke is in a better spot now at the end of the year than he was at the beginning of the year,” Antonetti said. “Hopefully he can get that major league opportunity and go help someone.”

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