Beckett's early struggles put pregame routine into question

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Beckett's early struggles put pregame routine into question

BOSTON After giving up two runs to the Blue Jays in the first inning Friday night, Josh Becketts already bloated first-inning ERA rose to 10.69, while his already robust opponents batting average also went up, to .343.

Those numbers are well above his career stats in the first inning: 4.62 ERA and .251 opponents average. They are also well above his numbers for all subsequent innings this season: 3.38 and 2.41.

Begging the question: What can be done about Becketts first-inning struggles? Change his pregame routine? Start his warm-ups earlier? What?

Josh warms up earlier than anybody in the history of baseball I think, said manager bobby Valentine before Saturdays game against the Jays. Earlier. Now the question would be, should he warm up later? Maybe. But this is a dog that is hard to teach a new trick to. Hes been very successful warming up as early as he warms up. But Ive never seen anybody have the break that he has in between the time he warms up and the time he goes out there.

I never put a clock on it. But sometimes the other pitcher is just playing catch when hes throwing on the mound in the bullpen.

Im not saying thats wrong. Hes been that way. Catchers dont mind it because they come in and get a big break before the game.

Pitching coach Bob McClure and he have had a lot of conversations about itor enough conversations that I would only add to the chatter, to the noise. I dont think hes any more upset with the first inning than I am or anybody else is. Hes trying to figure it out, too. And yesterday there was a groundball to third. Will Middlebrooks threw it home to take the guy out. Thats not a first-inning problem. And a heck of a pitch. Pretty good pitch on the triple by Colby Rasmus, who scored the first run.

Valentine also acknowledged a change in Becketts pregame routine wouldnt necessary guarantee different first-inning results:

I dont know that change in habits going to do anything other than to give an answer to the question Is he doing anything different? Valentine said. Oh, yeah, hes doing something different. Big deal. That means all of a sudden somethings going to change? I was confident he was going to go out yesterday and put up a zero. Im confident next time he goes out there hes going to put up a zero in the first inning.

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.