Beckett establishing rapport with catchers

Beckett establishing rapport with catchers
March 4, 2012, 9:51 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In the wake of the Red Sox' fold last September and the ensuing fallout that came after tales of clubhouse misbehavior, Josh Beckett already had a lot on his plate this spring.

But the retirement of long-time batterymate Jason Varitek means that Beckett has to also familiarize himself with some new catchers for the first time since arriving here in 2006.

Instead of the familiar Varitek, Beckett must get accustomed to working with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kelly Shoppach and Ryan Lavarnway.

Each has already worked with him on the side -- during bullpen sessions and live batting practice sessions. Sunday, Saltalamacchia caught Beckett as the Red Sox opened their Grapefruit League schedule with a game against the Minnesota Twins.

"We've had a lot of dialogue,'' said Beckett after tossing two shutout innings. "There are key reminders. You try to give them a couple of things that you tend to lean toward when things aren't going good. For me, a lot of it stems from where my head's going and where my front side is. So we've talked a lot about that.''

Such communication, Beckett said, is essential.

"I think it just takes time as far as the signal-calling goes,'' said Beckett. "I think anybody can get on the same page. They're going to know what I like to throw in certain situations and what my out pitch is that today. A lot of that is just learned each day, in the bullpen or the first three or four innings.''

But Beckett acknowledges that he won't establish the rapport he had with Varitek overnight. These things take time.

"Trust is a big thing,'' said Beckett. "That was one thing that Jason was so good at. I knew when he had a lot of confidence in one pitch and he would go to it and I would shake (it off) and he would go right back to it. I knew he saw something I didn't see.

"But I'm looking forward to working with Salty and Shoppy and just kind of getting to know them while we're out there.''

Recalling his the relationship he formed with Varitek starting back in 2006, Beckett said Varitek would quickly determine during the pitcher's pre-game bullpen session what was working well that night and what wasn't.

"It's all stuff (the other catchers) are capable of doing,'' said Beckett of Saltalamacchia, Shoppach and Lavarnway. "(Varitek) and I didn't have to talk; we just knew and that's something I have full confidence that Salty and I and Shoppy and I will be able to do.''

As for his first outing of the season, Beckett was reasonably happy with the result.

"I felt like I stayed strong through it,'' said Beckett. "I was getting a little bit big out of the stretch in the second inning there (when he issued two walks) and just couldn't make the adjustment.''

Of particular emphasis was his changeup, which he threw more than he otherwise might just to get a better feel for it.

"I think I threw about nine of them,'' recounted Beckett, "and I threw three of them where I wanted them.''