Beckett brushes off early frustration, limits Twins offense

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Beckett brushes off early frustration, limits Twins offense

MINNEAPOLIS -- After the first inning Tuesday night, it seemed like Josh Beckett might have an abbreviated start. The only question was whether he'd leave because of Bobby Valentine or home plate umpire Adrian Johnson.

Beckett, handed a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning, gave up a base hit to the first hitter he faced, and after a fielder's choice, proceeded to walk the next three hitters, forcing in a run.

The pitcher gave long stares to Johnson, unhappy with being squeezed on some borderline pitches. When the inning was over, 37 pitches later, he turned toward Johnson and, TV replays showed, shouted that because of Johnson's strike zone, Beckett had had to get "five (expletive) outs.''

But perhaps it wasn't all bad. Beckett righted himself after that, allowing just one run over the next five innings and, tellingly no more walks as the Sox cruised to an 11-2 win.

"He got a little frustrated, possibly, but it really turned up his competitive fluids,'' said Valentine. "He wasn't going to be denied the victory. After the first inning, he threw strikes, got ahead and he wasn't going to let this one get away. We needed that kind of performance.

"He was into it. I haven't seen Josh like that. It really seemed like that this was a game he really wanted.''

Beckett wouldn't discuss his displeasure with Johnson's strike zone ("We won. I want to talk about that''), and he didn't necessarily agree with Valentine's assertion that the reaction might have been a benefit to him.

"I don't know,'' said Beckett. "Sometimes I think you can waste too much energy with that stuff. Today, it apparently helped our guys because they scored 11 runs. (But for me) it's a waste of energy and I don't need to waste energy.''

Whatever the motivation, Beckett was far more economical after the first. He needed just 63 pitches for the final 15 outs after needing 37 for the first three.

And he fanned the side in the sixth inning, finishing with a flourish.

"I probably threw a few more strikes,'' said Beckett of his turnaround. "They were pretty aggressive after (the first inning). It was really about the offense today. They were really on their game.

"It was a battle for me today. I felt like the stuff was there, but the location was a little bit off. I was a little bit effectively wild, especially after the first inning."

This was Beckett's first road win since last Aug. 24 at Texas.

Porcello following Belichick’s lead, moving 'on to 2017'

Porcello following Belichick’s lead, moving 'on to 2017'

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Flashback to January 2016, it’s the first night of Red Sox Winter Weekend, where fans welcome Rick Porcello with a vanilla reception -- no different than that of any one of the coaches. The right-hander is coming off a disappointing 2015, where he’d been given a four-year extension before throwing a regular season pitch and didn’t exactly perform to the level he’d hoped.

Now flash foward to Friday night, same event, just a year later. Porcello is introduced at the Town Hall event at Foxwoods to kick off the weekend and receives a welcome truly rivaled only by the AL MVP runner-up, Mookie Betts.

“You know, they were both pretty similar,” Porcello joked with reporters when comparing his 2016 reception to Friday’s.

Makes sense. Winning a Cy Young Award can change public perception.

But after his dominant 22-4 regular season, Porcello -- along with the rest of the starting rotation -- couldn’t deliver in the postseason. While he was visibly upset during and after his lone 2016 postseason start, Porcello is taking the Bill Belichick approach and says he's moving on from the outing -- and his memorable regular season, too.

“Just like any other start, you’ve gotta find ways to get over that stuff,” Porcello said. “It doesn’t feel good to go out there and not win Game 1, but I’m on to 2017 now -- and really everything that’s happened in 2016 is behind me. The season that I had, the postseason I had and we’re on to this year and what we can accomplish this year.”

“Moving on” from struggling times and great successes tends to bode well for athletes and players in this town. Maybe that’s what made all the difference for Porcello in making the jump from 2015 to 2016.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."