Beckett has mixed feelings about spring debut

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Beckett has mixed feelings about spring debut

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Hours before Josh Beckett tossed his first pitch of the spring, manager Terry Francona was asked, given the pitcher's stated desire to make up for a poor 2010 season, how that was manifesting itself.

How was Beckett acting? Was there something evident to the staff and teammates?

Francona thought for a moment.

"Determined is the right word,'' he said. "Not necessarily loud; determined. He's focusing on a lot of things that he needs to do. Some of it is on his own. He's been pretty diligent about it.''

Beckett's debut was mixed. He got three groundouts from the first four hitters he faced. Then, after a soft lineout to short, Beckett was hit some: a double to right from Chris Parmelee, a run-scoring triple that Darnell McDonald nearly snared above the wall in left, and finally, a lineout to right.

Two innings, two hits, one run -- and some good and bad in Beckett's estimation.

"I felt like I was rushing a little,'' said Beckett. "There were some positives, though. I wanted to get some ground balls; that means you're keeping the ball down and I did that, so that was good.

"I felt like I threw some good changeups behind in the count. They weren't strikes, but that was something else I wanted to do.''

He added that he found himself rushing some pitches, a sign that he's not entirely locked in with his delivery yet.

Beckett mentioned that, early in the spring especially, maintaining health is always a big motivation.

Indeed, two of Beckett's last three springs have been compromised by physical setbacks. In 2008, Beckett wrenched his lower back and missed most of the exhibition season. Then, last year, he was stricken with a nasty case of the flu, which kept him bedridden for several days and left him weak well into late March.

"It's very difficult to lose time in the spring,'' he said, "because you're constantly trying to catch up. I had to make a start in Bradenton last year that I probably shouldn't have, but I had to do it because we were getting to that time in spring training where I really couldn't miss any more time.''

Making all his scheduled starts and building arm strength are keys for Beckett. If he maintains that throughout the spring and into the season, he's confident he can again be the pitcher he was for all of 2007 and for portions of the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

"I think if I'm healthy, the numbers will be there,'' said Beckett.

Like teammates Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro, who continued to compete in 2010 despite serious injuries and physical limitations, Beckett earned the respect of his teammates and the coaching staff by continuing to pitch last season though he was nowhere near 100 percent.

"There were times last year when he didn't have to take the ball and he did,'' said Francona. "And it kind of snowballed and he couldn't turn it around. But at the same time, when you're in the clubhouse with him, you respect that even though it was really tough because you know he's out there trying.''

Clay Buchholz, who followed Beckett to the mound Sunday night, noted that the rest of the pitching staff still views Beckett as the leader of the rotation. Jon Lester may have been more consistent the last three years and Buchholz might have the breakout season from the group, but Beckett is the one others follow and respect.

Beckett seemed surprise when he was asked when he would "flip the switch,'' and begin treating spring training games as he would regular season outings.

"I'm competing right now,'' said Beckett.

That's never been the issue. Performance, on the other hand, has been. Beckett's goal of playing for a 100-win team -- which, unprompted, he mentioned again Sunday night -- might be made more realistic if Beckett himself can again pitch like he did in 2007.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

BOSTON -- New York’s mistake helped the Red Sox, and they weren’t playing the Yankees.

The Red Sox struck out 20 in a game for the third time in franchise history on Thursday night, and they were able to do so only after MLB’s replay team — based in Manhattan — gave Craig Kimbrel an extra batter to strike out in the ninth inning.

A 6-2 win over the Rangers featured 16 strikeouts for Red Sox pitching heading into the top of the ninth at Fenway Park. Kimbrel came on for a non-save situation because he had five days off previously.

There’s always that outside chance for a four-strikeout inning, and it happened. Even for a four-strikeout inning, however, this was bizarre.

The first batter, left-handed hitting Nomar Mazara, swung and missed at a back-foot breaking ball for strike three — a literal back-foot breaking ball, because it hit him in that foot after he whiffed on the pitch.

On a swing and a miss with a pitch that hits the batter, the ball should be dead. He should not have been able to reach first base. But the umpires didn’t catch the ball hitting Mazara, and instead saw it as a wild pitch. 

Sox manager John Farrell asked for a review and the umpires went for one, but came back empty-handed. The crew was told, erroneously, that the play could not be looked at and the batter was awarded first base.

“It was just a swinging strike three, ball that go away and he obviously reached first base,” crew chief Alfonso Marquez told pool reporter Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “The only thing that I can tell you, and the only thing I will say is, this was a replay issue. New York will come out with a statement.”

You could say it worked out just fine. Kimbrel went on to strike out the next three, and got the Sox to 20 Ks.

Kimbrel and Tim Wakefield are the only Red Sox pitchers to fan four batters in a single inning. Wakefield did it in the ninth inning on Aug. 10, 1999. 

Kimbrel did it once before as well, when he was with the Braves on Sept. 26, 2012.

No one has struck out five in a major league inning, although Kimbrel has as good a chance as anyone.

“The guy strikes out the world,” Matt Barnes said. “It’s ridiculous. … His fastball is seemingly unhittable. Complement that with the breaking ball he’s got, which comes right off that same plane, when he’s commanding it like he is, the numbers kind of speak for themselves. It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s fun to watch.”

The Sox have struck out 20 in a nine-inning game three times since 1913. Roger Clemens' two 20-strikeout games are the other two.

Red Sox tie strikeout record in completing sweep of Rangers, 6-2

Red Sox tie strikeout record in completing sweep of Rangers, 6-2

BOSTON (AP) There's something about Boston Red Sox pitchers and 20-strikeout games.

There have been six major-league games with that many strikeouts and the Red Sox made the list for the third time, fanning that many Texas Rangers for a 6-2 victory Thursday night and a sweep of the three-game series.

Five Boston pitchers combined on the 20 strikeouts with starter Drew Pomeranz getting 11 in six innings and closer Craig Kimbrel getting four in the ninth when the leadoff batter reached on a wild pitch strike three. Boston's Roger Clemens twice reached 20 strikeouts by himself.

"His stuff is nasty. What he is doing right now I have never seen anything like that," Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes said of Kimbrel.

Kimbrel has retired 53 of the last 56 batters he has faced and right-handed hitters are on an 0-for-41 streak.

Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero hit their first home runs of the season helping Boston to its fourth straight win.

"A lot has been made about our home run totals or lack thereof," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Tonight was the first of what should be many more."

Pomeranz (4-3), who tied his career high with the 11 strikeouts, made it as far as six innings for the third time this season and beat Texas for the first time in nine career outings.

"Felt lost for a couple of starts and wasn't satisfied," said Pomeranz, who gave up four hits and walked one. "Tonight I felt more like last year."

Elvis Andrus homered and Nomar Mazara had two hits and an RBI for Texas, which has lost four of five overall and 15 of 21 on the road.

"The sweep is surprising," Andrus said. "But that's the beauty of baseball, I guess. You cannot take any team for granted. Even when you feel you're playing at your best, stuff like this can happen."

Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland had RBI singles in the first inning as Boston got to Rangers starter Nick Martinez (1-3) early.

Bogaerts hit a two-run homer in the third to put Boston ahead 4-0. Despite finishing with 21 home runs last year, Bogaerts needed 46 games to connect for the first time this season.

"Good to get one over the wall and get it out of the way," Bogaerts said.

Mike Napoli struck out four times while Pete Kozma and Andrus went down three times each. Every Ranger starter struck out at least once.

"Pomeranz was throwing well," Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "Obviously their bullpen came in and threw well also and they played better than we did overall tonight."

Marrero homered in the eighth off Alex Claudio.

Martinez gave up four runs in five innings and is winless in four starts against Boston with a 6.46 ERA.

Andrus cut Boston's lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning with the homer, snapping an 0-for-9 drought.

Moreland tied his career high by driving in at least one run for the sixth straight game and extended his hitting streak to seven games, batting .393 in that stretch.

Boston swept Texas for the first time at Fenway Park since 2008. Since 2009, Texas has the best winning percentage at Fenway Park in the major leagues at .600.

STRIKING SUCCESS

Pomeranz recorded his 500th career strikeout when he whiffed Napoli for the final out of the fourth inning, his eighth of the game.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: 3B Adrian Beltre will play in extended spring training games in Arizona the next three days after being sidelined all season with a calf strain.

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia was removed from the game after five innings for precautionary reasons due to left knee pain. He is listed as day to day. ... LHP David Price will make his season debut Monday in Chicago against the White Sox despite surrendering six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings over his last two rehab starts. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval is 3 for 13 in four rehab games.

UP NEXT:

Rangers: Will send RHP A.J. Griffin (4-1) in the opener at Toronto.

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (3-1) looks to win his fourth straight decision when they entertain Seattle on Friday.