Justin Masterson came away from his Tuesday bullpen session filled with optimism. (WEEI.com photo)

Why Wednesday was so important to Justin Masterson

Rob Bradford
February 04, 2015 - 6:14 pm

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It didn't seem like anything special to the casual observer. Justin Masterson was simply going through another offseason workout Wednesday, joining Red Sox rotation-mate Rick Porcello, minor-league reliever Dalier Hinojosa, pitching coach Juan Nieves and bullpen catcher Mani Martinez for an informal run-through at JetBlue Park. Masterson's day would consist of stretching, throwing 25 fastballs off the mound and some running. But, considering what transpired when he attempted to execute a similar early February exercise exactly a year ago, the day meant quite a bit to Masterson. "Nothing hurts," he said when asked about the difference in throwing his second bullpen, compared to his initial time off the mound with the Indians last season. "I feel like I'€™m getting through a ball. When I came to spring last year I didn'€™t feel like I could get through a ball. I just figured I needed to loosen up, but it never did. Coming in right now compared to last year? It'€™s huge." As most realize, 2014 was a disaster for Masterson, leading him down the path that was punctuated with a one-year, $9.5 million deal with the Red Sox. But what the pitcher explained Wednesday was that the whole ball of wax -- which included a combined 5.88 ERA in 25 starts with Cleveland and St. Louis -- was a product of those same sort of early February bullpen sessions. "In the offseason, after I tore the oblique, I didn'€™t get it worked through. I didn'€™t get that scar tissue taken away," Masterson explained. "I didn'€™t strengthen the way I should have. A lot of things I didn'€™t do right just because it felt fine. And then it was like I was catching up the whole time, and because of the lack of rotation other stuff started working harder and then you go down that chain. The knee starts hurting a little bit. The hips aren'€™t working as well as they should. The arm'€™s not coming through. You'€™re like, what'€™s going on here? All of those things were a trickle down effect. "I felt that something'€™s not right, and I didn't know what it was. I wasn'€™t in intense pain so it'€™s hard for me to say, '€˜This isn'€™t feeling good, so check this out.'€™ It was just weakness along with scar tissue. That part didn'€™t hurt. Some other things just didn'€™t feel as good. Dealing with the side, a little sore in the back." The mystery of a year ago was understandable considering Masterson never throws bullpen sessions prior to coming to camp. It's why the outcome in February, 2014 surprise him so much, and also why Wednesday offered a healthy dose of optimism. "I don'€™t do bullpens until I get to spring training. That'€™s the way I'€™ve always done it, whether it'€™s right or wrong, it'€™s worked," said Masterson, who finished 2013 with 14 wins and a 3.45 ERA. "I try and give my body as much rest as I can. That'€™s why when I got there I thought it would loosen up like it always does. But it just didn'€™t. "[Wednesday] was night and day [compared to last February]. It started at the end of last season, at the tail-end when I started figuring out a few things, getting some stretching and some scar tissue work. It was like, '€˜Oh, that feels good.'€™ Then this offseason I retrained some of those muscles to activate again. I was like, '€˜You guys can come work again, everything else is good.'€™ Today was great."