Before he was dropped into the Mets bullpen, Daisuke Matsuzaka thought he may never be a reliever. It took too long for him to prepare for a start, too long to get his right arm ready for the rigors of a game.

To enter a game as a reliever — with little preparation — would be a time constraint too difficult to resolve.

But slowly his doubts have lessened. Perhaps it is a reflection of his performance in a new role. Or that his assimilation has eased his mind.

In six appearances this season, Matsuzaka has a 1.17 ERA in 7⅔ innings. Manager Terry Collins has used him successfully in a middle-inning hold situation, for one out, and even as a closer — and postulated that could be Matsuzaka’s job later this year. The pitcher’s aptitude in that position seems difficult to question so far.

"I’m starting to get used to this, too," Matsuzaka said last week after his first career save. "But I think I still have to throw more than other pitchers, just because I’m not sure if I’m quite ready or not. Just to comfort myself I throw probably more than I have to."

In his 15 years as a starting pitcher in Japan and the United States, Matsuzaka developed a pre-game routine that spanned at least 90 minutes. He wound himself up mentally throughout the day, preparing for each start.

He would ride a stationary bicycle to get his body warm, and a wear a hot pack on his shoulder to ready his arm. Thirty minutes before the start, he would begin to throw by playing catch.