Beckett goes five scoreless, lowers spring ERA to 0.95

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Beckett goes five scoreless, lowers spring ERA to 0.95

FORT MYERS, Fla. If Josh Beckett had any reservations about pitching against division foes this close to the start of the regular season, it didnt show Tuesday afternoon. Beckett easily handled the Rays, pitching five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and three walks with five strikeouts as he lowered his Grapefruit League ERA to 0.95 in five starts. He threw 84 pitches, 49 for strikes.

The only challenge the Rays offered Beckett was in the second inning, with one out and runners at second and third. Beckett opened the inning with back-to-back walks to Carlos Pena and Jeff Keppinger. But after a Jeff Salazar sacrifice bunt, he struck out the next two batters Sean Rodriguez swinging and Jose Lobaton looking to end the inning. He allowed just one baserunner Jeff Zobrist on a two-out walk in the third after that.

Josh is working on his changeup a little, and I thought threwa lot of really good pitches today, said manager Bobby Valentine. I think he got his work in, put up a bunch of zeros, was competitive working against their hitters and I think thats what he needed. Hell have one more short start. But he had pretty good stuff today.

Third inning he got really good, I thought.

Becketts next start is scheduled for Sunday against the Twins.

As far as arm strength and stuff goes theres still stuff you got to figure out during the season, too," Beckett said. "I think if you hit the ground running in April, youre probably not very old. So spring trainings in my opinion a little bit long but its to get everybody ready.

Now, when youre throwing this many pitches, 85 -100, youre competitive stuff kind of takes over. Youre trying to get guys out, not let people score. I think the mental aspect of the game is a little bit different than when youre going three innings. Maybe then you tend to really work on some individual pitch. I think right now, I pitched out of a good jam today. Obviously you dont want to put yourself in too many of those jams during the year but its nice to pitch out of one during spring training just to kind of refresh yourself that you can do it.

Beckett is scheduled to start the home opener, April 13, against the Rays. The Rays' James Shields pitched in a minor league game today rather than face the Sox. Facing the Rays today, for the first time this spring, and again so early in the season was not an issue.

I think you could face a team once during spring training, he said. But, yeah, I definitely think there comes a familiar approach, if you will, especially when it comes to how you got to a pitch or how you got a guy out. The more times he sees that the more times hes going to have either video or a mental log of, OK, this is how he got me out. This is what hes going to do this time.

"Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and I talked about that a little bit. Youre definitely competitive. Youre trying got them out. And if you know of a way to get them out, I dont think that you say, Oh, I dont want to go there because I want to go to it later.

For Beckett, that was not a problem today.

Brandin Cooks ready to bring back arrow celebration after NFL rule change

Brandin Cooks ready to bring back arrow celebration after NFL rule change

Tuesday’s announcement from Roger Goodell that the NFL is “relaxing” its rules on celebrations is good news for at least one Patriot. 

That would be Brandin Cooks, who began celebrating the rule change on Twitter not long after the league made its announcement. 

Cooks, whom the Patriots acquired from the Saints this offseason in a trade that sent first and third-round picks to New Orleans, lost his favorite celebration last season when it was made clear that miming archery was off-limits. Josh Norman was fined $10,000 last season for such a celebration. 

Following Norman’s fine, Cooks lamented the league’s decision to punish what Cooks had previously done in reference to a Bible verse (Psalms 144:6). 

"Send forth lightning and scatter your enemy, and shoot your arrows and rout them," Cooks told the New Orleans Advocate. "I just remember it sticking with me for such a long time, I remember thinking, maybe I can do something with this."

Added Cooks: ”I’ve been doing it for three years now, and there was never a complaint about it. Now, all of a sudden, there is. It just reminds me that, it's almost as if they try to take so much away from us, but for something like this, that means so much to someone that has nothing to do with violence, it's frustrating. I'll definitely continue to speak my opinion about it, and if they have a problem with it, so be it."

When Tuesday’s news emerged, Cooks and former Saints teammate Mark Ingram were quick to react. 

 

Napoli: Red Sox and his agent only had 'small talk' about reunion

Napoli: Red Sox and his agent only had 'small talk' about reunion

BOSTON -- Of course, the Rangers' Mike Napoli didn't mind the idea of replacing David Ortiz. He loved playing in Boston.

There just was never much chatter that way last offseason, when Napoli was a free agent after his Indians took the Cubs to seven games in the World Series.

"I think my agent had maybe a small talk or something [with the Red Sox], but I don't think it ever would have happened," Napoli said Tuesday afternoon as he returned to Fenway Park with Texas. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I would have loved to come back. But, I mean, it all worked out. I'm glad to be where I'm at now. Because I knew everybody here [with the Rangers]. I didn't have to start over again."

Napoli played with the Rangers in 2011 and '12, and was traded by the Sox to Texas for the last few months of the 2015 season.

He was hopeful the Sox -- his team from 2013 to midseason 2015 -- would be among the clubs to come calling last winter.

"Oh, yeah," he said.

But he wasn't optimistic it was going to happen. And it didn't.

"To be honest with you . . . Cleveland was my first priority," he said. "I just had a World Series run [with the Indians] and we didn't win it. And then Texas was there [in the bidding, along with] Minnesota."

The Rangers wound up giving Napoli, 35, a one-year deal for 8.5 million with an $11 million club option for next season or a $2.5 million buyout. He's hitting just .188 entering Tuesday, a subpar figure, but has 10 home runs.

"We started off pretty slow, but winning 10 straight will help," Napoli said of the Rangers' recent tear. "[Winning] 11 of 12, we've been playing better. I think we kind of lost track of who we are. We got some guys struggling, still trying to find themselves and kind of got away from doing it together as a team, but we got back to doing that. It's been going pretty well."

Part of the World Series championship team of four years ago, Napoli loved being in Boston in 2013, and he enjoys being back now.

"What we were able to do in 2013, obviously, it's something I'l never forget and something I cherish," Napoli said. "I love coming back here to play."

When it was noted there's been so much turmoil since Napoli left -- the talk of Tuesday was manager John Farrell's job security -- he was unsurprised.

"You got to have thick skin to play here," Napoli said. "You're expected to win a championship every single year. But that's what I loved about playing here, is that people were on you. For me, I loved it. A lot of people probably couldn't do it.

"I knew it in my heart that I went out there and I played as hard as I possibly could every single time . . . I know you're not going to be perfect and live up to everyone."