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.