Beckett's plan: 'Throw away the rear-view mirror'

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Beckett's plan: 'Throw away the rear-view mirror'

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Hall of Famer Satchel Paige famously warned not to "look back -- something might be gaining on you."

Josh Beckett, reflecting on his lost season of 2010, has a somewhat modified approach -- with help from his father.

"Like my dad said, 'Throw out the rear-view mirror,' " said Beckett Tuesday. "I can't change anything that's already happened. As frustrating as 2010 was, I've got to move on. This is about 2011.

"I'm not trying to change last year this year. I'm just trying to have the best 2011 I can and put this team in a position to do what we all think we're capable of: Winning another World Series."

Improvement should not be difficult for Beckett, who struggled through his worst season in the major leagues last year, going 6-6 with a 5.78 ERA in a season interrupted twice by injury and marked by underachievement.

By nearly every statistical measure, Beckett had a poor season. His hits allowed and walk totals were up and his strikeout ratio was down. In almost one-third of his starts (6 of 21) he gave up six or more runs. It was hardly the kind of performance expected from someone who helped pitch the Sox to a title in 2007 and won 17 games as recently as 2009.

Back ailments limited him and resulted in two trips to the DL. At times, he attempted to pitch through discomfort, in part contributing to the downturn. But Beckett offered no excuses for his numbers.

"At times it was a physical struggle," he said. "But things still should have been better than they were."

Beckett stumbled mentally, too. When he had a bad start, he tried to bury it with a make-good outing the next time on the mound and before long, found himself being buried.

"I think he tried too hard at times last year," offered Terry Francona, "and it kind of ganged up on him."

"You're trying to make up for two bad starts with one bad pitch," said Beckett. "In that aspect, I think we're all guilty of that from time to time, trying to do too much right now, and really all you need to focus on is this start, not five starts from now or even two pitches from now. You have to stay in the monent."

It's been theorized by some in the organization that part of Beckett's problem was subconsciously attempting to justify the four-year, 68.5 million contract extension he agreed to soon after the start of the season.

"I don't think so, but who knows?" Beckett said.

Either way, Beckett was left with an empty feeling. Since joining the team after the 2005 season, the Sox had made the postseason in three of his first four years. When they fell short last fall, done in by a rash of injuries to everyday players and an underachieving rotation, Beckett felt some of the responsibility.

"It's not a good feeling," said Beckett, "leaving the season knowing that things could have been better for the whole team if you would have just done your part."

When Beckett wasn't fighting injuries, he seemed to be fighting himself on the mound, deviating from his usual repertoire of fastball-curveball-changeup to throw too many cut fastballs. At times, he barely resembled the power pitcher who came to dominate October in 2003 and 2007.

"I definitely think there were some times when I got away from that," he agreed.

The change of approach resulted in a predictable viscious cycle. Unable to rely on his fastball and curve as he would have liked, Beckett toyed with the cutter more, and eventually, overused it.

"I think were times when I fell in love with it," said Beckett, "and I tried to use it in situations when it probably wasn't the wisest thing . . . I want to get back to mixing in every pitch in his repertoire."

Beckett underwent a slightly different offseason conditioning program, one designed to improve his core stability. The hope is that, after failing to throw 200 innings twice in the last three years, he can return to his normal workload and avoid injuries which slow him down.

"The back feels good," he said.

More than anything, Beckett would like to get some distance from 2010, which was forgettable in every way.

"I'm eager to get this thing rolling," he said. "I needed a little bit of a break for a couple of weeks there after the season ended. I obviously wasn't happy with how last year went, either for myself or the team. Basically, since then, I've been ready to go."

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

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Despite still being owed more than $42 million after this year, Pablo Sandoval's days with the Red Sox appear numbered. So, it's no surprise that landing a third baseman at the trade deadline is a priority.

That's among the "major upgrades" the Sox are seeking by the July 31 deadline, MLB.com columnist Mark Feinsand reports.

With Sandoval now on his second disabled list stint of the season - this time with an ear infection - after turning into what Feinsand calls "a horror tale for the Red Sox," and with fill-ins Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero holding down third, it's apparent that the position is a glaring need.

"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," a source told Feinsand. "They need to make a move there."

Feinsand mentions the usual suspects - Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Todd Frazier of the White Sox - as possibilities. Also, he wonders if former MVP Josh Donaldson could be pried away from the Blue Jays (if "Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off") with an offer and if Toronto is still sputtering at the deadline?

Those other upgrades? "Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen," Feinsand writes. Again, no surprise there.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

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At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.