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

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.