By Sean McAdam
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."