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Kawakami holds his own vs. Dice-K


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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With the Red Sox and Daisuke Matsuzaka serving as his opposition, Kenshin Kawakami took advantage of the opportunity to prove why he's been considered a pitcher who is capable of pitching effectively in big-game situations.

While it seems meaningless to even attempt to utilize Spring Training and big game in the same context, the opportunity to oppose Matsuzaka amid a throng of Japanese media members provided Kawakami the opportunity to pitch with some added adrenaline he'll have when the regular season arrives.

"Watching [Matsuzaka] pitch gave me some energy today since he's one of the big pitchers in Japan," Kawakami said. "So I was happy to face him."

Kawakami more than held his own while pitching against his fellow countryman, who was pitching for the first time since capturing World Baseball Classic MVP honors for a second time. The Braves right-hander allowed two runs and four hits in six innings.

"He can rise to the occasion, you can just see it in him," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Kawakami's lone mistake came in the fifth inning, when he misplaced a 2-0 fastball that Rocco Baldelli crushed over the left-field wall for a two-run homer.

While pitching with at least 50 Japanese media members in attendance, Kawakami displayed an effective curveball that helped him register four strikeouts.

"He had that buckling curveball going today," Cox said. "I don't think anybody had a good swing on it today. He locked them up with it, and he threw a bunch of them, too."

Kawakami, who spent the past 13 seasons in Japan's Central League, isn't coming to the Majors with the same kind of fanfare that surrounded Matsuzaka after the Red Sox spent more than $50 million on a posting fee that simply gave them the right to negotiate his current six-year, $52 million contract.

But in this matchup, Kawakami posted similar numbers to Matsuzaka, who allowed two earned runs and two hits with two strikeouts in five innings.

With the need to get him some at-bats, the Braves opted to use Garret Anderson as their designated hitter and thus denied Kawakami the chance to test his offensive skills against Matsuzaka.

But when asked if he would have liked this opportunity to face the Red Sox right-hander, Kawakami replied "No chance" while using his limited English skills.

Anderson, who missed a little more than three weeks with a strained right calf, has spent the past two days as a designated hitter. Cox said that the veteran outfielder will start in left field for Tuesday night's game against the Astros.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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