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“The beautiful thing about this is that it’s the game of baseball,” Farrell said. “I think there’s some very apparent situations that come up inside of a game and regardless of the language barrier, we are able to manage — whether it’s through sign language or actually being able to converse in a common language. We also have Masai here in the dugout when any situations come up, so there’s no communication gaps at all.”

When it comes to Daisuke Matsuzaka’s assimilation to the Major Leagues, the art of in-game communication will be nothing short of crucial.
Perhaps what was most gratifying to the Red Sox and their new pitching sensation is all the progress that took place in that area over the past six weeks in Spring Training. Matsuzaka, pitching coach John Farrell and catcher Jason Varitek worked individually, and in tandem, to make their baseball language as universal as humanly possible.

Three mornings a week during Spring Training, Matsuzaka and Japanese teammate Hideki Okajima took English-speaking lessons. Farrell sat in on the lessons to aid in the baseball lingo.

“We went from an unknown to now being more effective in our in-game communication,” Farrell said. “I think most importantly for Daisuke and Hideki, they’ve gained some sense of comfort and knowing that teammates and coaches are putting forth an effort to communicate with them as much as possible.

“I think the more we can get guys comfortable, the more their natural ability is going to come out.”

Give credit to Farrell and Varitek also.

Farrell spent much of his offseason taking Japanese-speaking lessons.

Varitek, thanks to help from interpreters Sachiyo Sekiguchi and Masa Hoshino, put together a list of pitching-related phrases — translated into Japanese — that he tapes to his left arm during Matsuzaka starts.

“I have about a 10-word vocabulary, so I’m slowly getting there,” Varitek said. “He’s understanding quite a bit. It’s been good. We’ve had to spend time, we have to talk, we have to talk with an interpreter, but he understands a lot, too. So it’s been very good.”

Sometimes, you just have to improvise. During Matsuzaka’s March 21 exhibition start in Bradenton, Fla., against the Pirates, home-plate umpire Wally Bell needed the pitcher to know that he was not allowed to put his hands to his mouth while standing on the pitching rubber.

It was up to Varitek to get that message across.

“That wasn’t on my sheet,” Varitek quipped.

What Varitek did was point to the pitching rubber while placing his hands on his mouth, and then make a “No-no” signal with his hands. Matsuzaka got the message.

Two weeks prior to that, the Marlins had put together a rally against Matsuzaka, putting runners at second and third with one out. The count on Scott Seabol was 1-2.

Varitek felt it was time for a chat. Through words and signs, Varitek indicated that he wanted a front-door slider.

“Well, I just wanted to give him an awareness of what I thought he needed to do right there,” Varitek said. “He actually understood me, which I wasn’t sure, but we still went through the finger signs to make sure. He made a good pitch.”

Seabol whiffed.

While interpreters are not allowed in the dugout or on the mound, the Red Sox had the foresight to add Masai Takahashi, who is Japanese, to the training staff.

“The beautiful thing about this is that it’s the game of baseball,” Farrell said. “I think there’s some very apparent situations that come up inside of a game and regardless of the language barrier, we are able to manage — whether it’s through sign language or actually being able to converse in a common language. We also have Masai here in the dugout when any situations come up, so there’s no communication gaps at all.”

Even during interviews with the media, it’s becoming apparent that Matsuzaka is starting to understand more English each week. That can only help his comfort level on the diamond.

“Actually, the one time I went to the mound with Daisuke, I spoke to him in English,” Farrell said. “One of the more surprising things is that his understanding and use of the English language is greater than I think any of us anticipated. He’s a very intelligent guy.”

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