Beckett bounces back with strong outing


Beckett bounces back with strong outing

By Maureen Mullen

FORT MYERS, Fla. For Josh Beckett the most important goal in spring training is to be healthy.

That was the message he delivered after his last start, Feb. 27 against the Twins. Eerily and frighteningly the very next morning, he was hit in the left temple by a baseball while shagging flies during batting practice, suffering a mild concussion.

In his first Grapefruit League outing since then, Beckett showed no signs of rust or of injury. He went 3 23 innings, giving up one run on three hits and a walk with four strikeouts, as the Red Sox beat the Astros, 3-2, on Tuesday. The run came in the first inning. After walking Astros lead-off batter, T.J. Steele, he gave up a wind-aided two-out double to Drew Locke.

Pretty good, manager Terry Francona said of Becketts outing. I thought he threw his fastball downhill. Stayed out of the middle. Especially coming off a missed outing. He looked pretty strong. The run they scored was the flyball to right that right fielder Josh Reddick probably didnt get a good enough jump on with the wind. I think we were all pretty pleased. Threw some good breaking balls.

Beckett threw 55 pitches, 30 for strikes. He ended each of his three full innings with strikeouts, including Chris Johnson looking at a curveball in the first.

My curveball was good, Beckett said. We changed a couple of things in my delivery, and were still making adjustments with it. The adjustment came faster with the breaking ball. I threw some good changeups. I threw one to a righty on an 0-and-0 count, and I threw one on a 1-and-0 count to a lefty.

One of the adjustments is shortening his stride.

My last start, that was a big thing, getting out too fast, he said.

Beckett threw a three-inning simulated game on Friday, throwing 40 pitches.

Those two days off definitely made me a little more sore today, just going in, he said. I had short rest last time and short rest this time, and it eventually catches up to you. I got my pitches in today. I feel fine. Im ready for a normal five-day deal.

Last season, Beckett went 6-6 with a 5.78 ERA, missing 56 games with a lower back injury.

I dont think he ever got untracked, Francona said. But then he was fighting it. I think it was both. It just kind of snowballed and he was never able to build any kind of momentum in the right direction.

I had stretches in there where I felt good, Beckett said. Felt as good as I have when Ive gone out and competed before. You have other stretches when you dont.

Now, Beckett hopes to put 2010 behind him, rebounding with a healthy 2011.

Theres some mental things, but Id say a large majority of it is physical, he said. Some of that can criss-cross a little bit. Mentally, you have to remember yourself being healthy because, a lot of times, when you look back, all you have is the last thing you did. If you werent healthy, thats what you remember.

Getting through spring training is big, because then youre not playing catch-up. Thats always been my thing, ever since I got here in 06. Im always preaching that to myself and preaching that to you guys as well -- about getting out of spring training healthy. Tito says it well: There are some guys here that are trying to get ready for a long season, and there are some guys here that are trying to make a team, and theres the other guys. I fit in that group where Im trying to get ready for a long season, and this time here is very important.

Just as important, the Sox need a healthy and effective Beckett to help them get where they want to go this season.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.