Beckett's exit caused by back spasms

832087.jpg

Beckett's exit caused by back spasms

BOSTON On the day he was not traded -- despite much speculation to the contrary -- Josh Beckett took the mound to face the Tigers Tuesday night at Fenway Park, pitted against the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and MVP, Justin Verlander.

At 5-9 with a 4.57 ERA in 17 starts, Becketts outings for most of this season have been unbecoming a starter who once wore the mantle "ace." The Red Sox are just 6-11 in his outings. In his last eight starts, Beckett is just 1-5 with a 5.02 ERA, while the Sox are 1-7 in those games.

Early on, though, it appeared as if the old Beckett had emerged, despite a heavy mist that began before the first pitch and progressed to a steady rain. Beckett struck out leadoff hitter Austin Jackson, swinging at a 91-mph fastball, and retired the first eight batters he faced. No. 9 hitter Omar Infante was the first Detroit batter to reach base, beating out a single to shortstop Pedro Ciriaco.

He looked terrific out there, obviously, the first eight hitters, manager Bobby Valentine said. Throwing out of the windup and tough conditions in the rain.

That hit quickly signaled Becketts struggles. He hit Jackson with a pitch then walked Quintin Berry and Miguel Cabrera, both on five pitches, forcing in a run.

After his last pitch, Beckett called time and signaled to the dugout.

Trainer Brad Pearson went to the mound, followed by pitching coach Bob McClure, and Valentine.

After just 2 23 innings, Becketts outing was done done in by a back spasm, it was announced later.

It locked up on me, just spasmed. Ive had this before, Beckett said. Its been worse. It wasnt getting any better and I obviously couldnt throw a strike.

It was just the last few pitches, four or five pitches out of the stretch.

When he got out of the wind-up the footing just wasnt the same, Valentine said. And his back spasmed up a little. Right now hes got the aftermath of a back spasm. Well take it day by day and see how he feels tomorrow and in between. But it was spasm, lower back.

There was no discussion of Beckett remaining in the game.

No, Valentine said. By the time I got to the mound, the medical staff and he had already talked about it and it was spasming pretty good.

Righthander Clayton Mortensen replaced him given the unenviable task of facing Prince Fielder with the bases loaded. After Fielder launched a long and loud foul ball over the Pesky Pole, Mortensen retired the Detroit slugger, holding the Tigers in check.

Mortensen -- who was called up earlier in the day from Triple-A Pawtucket to take the roster spot of Matt Albers who was traded to Arizona -- earned the win, his first of the season in the big leagues. The Sox scored four runs off Verlander in the fourth, on the way to a 4-1 victory in a game that was called with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the sixth.

Beckett had a similar situation before. In 2010 he slipped on a wet mound in Yankee Stadium on May 18 and landed on the disabled list, missing 56 games before returning on July 23.

New York was kind of like one of those deals when I felt it on one pitch, he said. This wasnt that severe. Like I said, it kept getting worse and I couldnt throw a strike.

The mound was a little sloppy. I think everybody was having trouble with it. You dont usually see Verlander walk that many guys four in five innings. It wasnt in great shape but thats just something you have to deal with.

Hell wait to see how his back feels Wednesday and go from there.

But, when he walked off the field, it was to a chorus of boos from the Fenway crowd. The reaction was highly unusual for an injured player, highly unusual from a home crowd. But, given Red Sox fans increasingly limited patience with Beckett over the last 10 months, perhaps not all that unusual.

You always notice, he said.

It is what it is.

Valentine, though, was surprised by the crowd reaction.

I was talking with the guys. I didnt really take notice of the boos, Valentine said. I dont think he deserved a boo at all. And those who were booing will probably take it back today when they figure out what the situation was.

Becketts reaction to the boos?

None whatsoever, he said.

It was the end to a strange day for him. After not being traded by the 4 p.m. deadline, he had to prepare for his 7:10 start.

I definitely had three hours to calm my mind, he said. Its definitely different. Ive never been through it. It was definitely something different for me.

Beckett said the rumors that had gained traction over the last few days leading up to the deadline did not affect him.

I dont think anything really. I didn't even know anything about it until two or three days ago, he said.

I think everybodys, there was a lot of guys in here whose name was attachedsome people didnt think they were going anywhere. I think a lot of times people try to throw as many things up against the wall as they can. And one sticks and they look like a genius.

Now, that he is still a member of the team, the pressure is on him, as it has been.

I think its been that way all year, he said. We just got to go out and win series. We got a nice little thing going right now. And lets just keep building on that.

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

IRVING, Texas -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents - the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

-For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

-While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

-There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

-Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

-The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

-The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

-The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

-Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

-As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.