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.

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.

Bulpett: Ainge 'really protective' of ability to go to free agency this summer

Bulpett: Ainge 'really protective' of ability to go to free agency this summer

Steve Bulpett joins Mike Felger to weigh in on the NBA trade deadline and the lack of moves made by Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics thus far.