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

Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

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Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia used nifty baserunning to score from first base on David Ortiz's double in the 10th inning and the AL East-leading Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Sunday for their 11th consecutive win.

Pedroia singled off Eddie Gamboa (0-1) to start the inning. The relay throw on Ortiz's hit to right center beat Pedroia to plate but he avoided Luke Maile's first tag. Pedroia's momentum carried him past the plate and when he went back to touch it, Maile was charged with an error when the ball dropped out his glove on another tag try.

Pedroia hit a solo homer and Mookie Betts extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single for the Red Sox, who secured at least an AL wild-card spot Saturday night. Boston's magic number to clinch the division title dropped to two.

Joe Kelly (4-0) went 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win.

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out a career-high 13 in 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander and Heath Hembree combined to strikeout 11 consecutive batters to establish a major league-record. The New York Mets held the previous mark when Tom Seaver struck out 10 in a row against San Diego on Apr. 22, 1970.

Boston also set a club record by striking out 21 through nine. Kelly added two more in the 10th.

There was a moment of silence before the game for Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident early Sunday. Fernandez played high school baseball in nearby Tampa, Florida after defecting from Cuba.

The Rays planned to honor Ortiz before his final game at Tropicana Field but canceled the ceremony at Ortiz's request after Fernandez's death. He had three hits in five at-bats and moved past Frank Thomas for 107th place on the career list with 2,469 hits.

Ortiz has 35 homers and 90 RBIs at Tropicana Field, which is the most of any visiting player. Alex Rodriguez is next with 30 homers and 73 RBIs.

HONORING BIG PAPI

Rays 3B Evan Longoria and RHP Chris Archer informally presented Ortiz with an oil painting of his 500th home run, which he hit at Tropicana Field last season. Ortiz was also given 34 special handmade Diamond Crown Maximus cigars and $5,000 donations in his name to the Miracle League of St. Petersburg, Florida and the University of South Florida Latino scholarship program.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Ortiz will play at Yankee Stadium for the final time during a three-game series against New York that starts Tuesday night. "Playing baseball in New York is something that is very special," Ortiz said. LHP David Price (17-8) will start for the Red Sox Tuesday night.

Rays: LHP Drew Smyly (7-11) will face White Sox RHP James Shields (3-11) Monday night in the first of four games in Chicago.

© 2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.