The best and worst of Beckett

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The best and worst of Beckett

It took Josh Beckett 37 pitches to get the first three outs of last night's game. And over that stretch, we saw Beckett at his absolute worst.

Was he not entirely warmed up? Had the early 3-0 lead affected his focus? Was he just plain unlucky? The real answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, but regardless of the reason, the results were brutal.

To start the game, he gave up a single to Denard Span, who was replaced Jamey Carroll after a fielder's choice. Then, Beckett walked Joe Mauer (after going ahead 1-2) to put runners on first and second, walked Josh Willngham (after going ahead 0-2) to load the bases, and then walked Justin Morneau (after going ahead 0-2) to force home a run. To make it all the more excruciating, Beckett was working so characteristically slow that you had time to finish all five Game of Thrones books during the wait between pitches.

Over the course of his straight three walks, Beckett was also squeezed by umpire Adrian Johnson. Pretty flagrantly at that. So by the time the Twins' run crossed the plate, the Texas Tough Guy was in full effect. You could see, almost hear Beckett swearing at Johnson from the mound. And you know what? He had every right to be angry, but the whole time I think we were all thinking the same thing:

"Is this guy serious? With everything that's going on with this team. With all the criticism and bad publicity he's personally received over the last seven months. Is he really going to get himself thrown out in the first inning?"

It sure looked that way. Especially after Beckett worked himself out of the jam and stormed off the mound glaring and screaming in Johnson's direction.

But you have to give Johnson credit. Sure, his incompetence had created that monster in the first place, but he was still well within his right to toss Beckett. There are a lot of umpires in baseball who would have thrown him out immediately, and filed the scene away in their Spank Bank. But Johnson resisted the temptation, and allotted Beckett who at this point was thinking about nothing but himself and his own warped sense of pride a little temper tantrum.

And thank God he did.

Beckett came back out in the second inning and retired the side on nine pitches. In the third, now with a 5-1 lead, he ran into a little trouble but escaped after only 16 pitches. In the fourth, now with a 7-1 lead, he retired the side on eight pitches. In the fifth, now with a 10-1 lead, he gave up one run but was generally sharp. And in the sixth he was sharper than a Hanzo sword, striking out the side on 18 pitches.

And that was his night.

A solid sixth inning outing; one that's probably better off broken down into two separate frames.

Frame No. 1: One inning, 37 pitches, three walks, one strikeout, one run and one long, extended, selfish temper tantrum. The embodiment of the kind performance and attitude that helped ruin last season and could very well threaten this one.

Frame No. 2: Five innings, 63 pitches, zero walks and four strikeouts. Calm, composure and consistent dominance. The guy Red Sox need every five days and whose existence may ultimately make or break their fortunes.

The best and worst of Josh Beckett.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

BOSTON — Tyler Thornburg’s gone for the season and there’s really no telling when the other set-up man the Sox expected to help in 2017, Carson Smith, will be back.

The Sox have already made inroads, if minor ones, in bolstering their third-base situation and rotation. Smith’s situation leaves a question of whether the Sox will need to pursue help in the bullpen as well.

There's not an easy answer to settle on at this point.

For one, the timetable with the right-hander Smith — whose shoulder has bothered him on the way back from Tommy John surgery — isn’t clear.

“He's in a no-throw [time] through the weekend,” Sox manager John Farrell said Friday afternoon at Fenway Park. “He'll be reevaluated on Monday to hopefully initiate a throwing program. He's responding favorably to the treatment. He continues to rehab as he's been. We have not closed the book in a sense on anything Carson can contribute this year.”

What does this year mean, though? Will they be able to know by July, by the trade deadline?

“Still too early to tell,” Farrell said. “We thought he was days from starting his rehab assignment after his last live BP session in New York [on June 6]. Unfortunately, that was put on hold for the time being. To get into any kind of timeframes, timetables, I don't know that any of us can predict that right now.”

The Sox relievers have done extraordinarily well without either Thornburg or Smith. Can that continue without reinforcements? The bullpen’s ERA entering Friday was 2.94, the second best mark in the majors. Its innings total, 217, was the second. lowest in the majors. 

So it’s not like the entire group is about to collapse from fatigue. But a guy like Joe Kelly, for example, isn’t someone the Sox want to use back to back.

It’s a young group and ultimately an inexperienced group. But Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has already fallen into the trap of trading for premium set-up men twice, and that’s a dangerous road to pursue again. Perhaps a smaller trade makes more sense.

“Well, at this point, we’re open minded to help,” Dombrowski said when asked if he was targeting either third-base or relief help. “I’m not going to get into specifics at this time on what else we’re looking for. Keep an open mind on a lot of ways on which we can improve. We have guys coming back and both the spots, I think Carson Smith is very important to us and our bullpen has pitched great. The other day, we struggled but that was one of the few times we really struggled all year. 

“I think Carson still has a chance to come back and help us this year.”

 

Pedroia returns

Dustin Pedroia (ribcage) was out of the initial Red Sox lineup on Friday but was later added. Farrell said in the afternoon that Pedroia would be available by emergency Fridayand expected to be back in the lineup Saturday, but clearly, something changed.

Red Sox claim right-hander Doug Fister off waivers

Red Sox claim right-hander Doug Fister off waivers

Right-handed starter Doug Fister, who opted out of his contract with the Angels, has been claimed off waivers by the Red Sox, CSN Red Sox Insider Evan Drellich has confirmed.

The news was first reported by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation, who writes that Fister, 33, will join the Red Sox immediately.

Fister opted out of with the Angels after three Triple-A starts in Salt Lake City, where he allowed seven runs on 16 hits with five walks and 10 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings. 

With Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson on the DL, the Red Sox need immediate starting pitching help. Triple-A Pawtucket call-up Hector Velazquez made a spot start earlier this week in the fifth spot behind Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price and Drew Pomeranz. 

Fister will receive $1.75 million in the majors from the Red Sox, with $1.2 million available in additional incentives, according to Cotillo. 

Fister has pitched eight seasons in the majors, including 2016 with the Astros, going 12-13 with 4.64 ERA in 180 1/3 innings. His best season was 2014 with the Nationals (16-6, 2.41 ERA).