Beckett's plan: 'Throw away the rear-view mirror'

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Beckett's plan: 'Throw away the rear-view mirror'

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

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."

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

McAdam: Doesn't take long for second-guessing of Farrell to resume

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McAdam: Doesn't take long for second-guessing of Farrell to resume

Three takeaways from the Red Sox' 6-4 loss to the Yankees on Tuesday night . . . 

1) Long relief may be short for the Red Sox in the postseason

The news that Drew Pomeranz won't start Thursday and is dealing with forearm soreness was ominous -- to say the least. While the Sox aren't concerned enough to order up an MRI for the lefty, it seems a fair bet that he won't pitch again this season. Pomeranz wasn't going to crack the postseason rotation and would likely have been relegated to relief duty. Now, even that seems a stretch.

Add that development to the continued absence of Steven Wright and the Red Sox are missing 40 percent of their rotation from late July and early August.

Healthy, both would have been stretched-out and available to provide multiple innings in the postseason.

Of course, most teams would prefer to not have to rely on long men in the postseason, since their very appearance in a game would signifiy that a starter got knocked out early.

When that happens, however, it's nice to have experienced, dependable arms to cover innings and not impact the bullpen's high-leverage pitchers.

Now, in such a scenario, the Sox will likely have to turn to either Robbie Ross Jr. or Heath Hembree.

2) Is Aaron Hill heating up?

In the month of September, Hill has posted a line of .381/.409/.571. On Tuesday night, he blasted a pinch-hit homer.

Admittedly, that's a relatively small sample size. But Hill has had better at-bats of late, especially against lefties.

It's doubtful that he'll take over third base -- now or in the postseason -- full-time, since John Farrell has two left-handed hitting options, with Travis Shaw and Brock Holt. Shaw certainly more power and has shown the ability to go on hot streaks at the plate.

But Hill is a veteran player, albeit one with little postseason experience (11 at-bats in the Division Series for Arizona in 2011) for a 12-year veteran.

And one other benefit: Hill is a .373 career hitter as a pinch-hitter, making him a valuable part off the bench in games started by either Holt or Shaw.

3) One loss is all it took for the second-guessing to resurface

The Sox had won 11 straight before Tuesday's loss, which quickly re-introduced criticism of Farrell.

Starter David Price had given up four runs through six innings, but the Sox rallied for two runs off Tommy Layne in the seventh to tie things at 4-4.

At 76 pitches, Price went back out for the seventh and promptly yielded a two-run homer to Tyler Austin, giving the Yanks another two-run lead.

Price hadn't been sharp in the first six. With expanded rosters, plenty of available relievers and a rested bullpen after a day off Monday, why stick with Price?

Offered Farrell: "You go with a right-hander they’re going to go with [Mark] Teixeira and [Brian] McCann with that right-field porch,” Farrell said. “Wanted to keep the (right-handed hitters) in the ballgame, (but Price) mislocated over the plate.”

Felger: Will October be a dance or a dud?

Felger: Will October be a dance or a dud?

For a Red Sox team that has been the best in baseball in September and had won 11 straight prior to last night, you have to admit: There are a lot of things that could go the other way with this team in the playoffs that wouldn't surprise you.

To wit:

-- Would it surprise you if David Price blew up again in the postseason? He has a 5.12 career postseason ERA and has never won a playoff start. Was last night a precursor? He looked like his old shaky October self with a chance to clinch the division in Yankee Stadium.

-- Would it surprise you if Clay Buchholz crapped his pants when it mattered most? This is your No. 3 starter, folks, or No. 4 at worst. He's getting the ball in the playoffs either way, and if I told you that two months ago you'd tell me the Sox are sunk. He looks good now, but we all know he is the ultimate tease.

-- Would it surprise you if John Farrell blows a game with a bone-headed decision from the bench? Of course not; he's been doing that for nearly four years. Yes, he did it all the way to a title in 2013, but the possibility remains very real. It's in the back of most everyone's mind.

-- Would it surprise you if Koji Uehara regresses and the eighth inning once again becomes a problem? Uehara certainly has the experience and has pitched well recently, but the fact is that it feels like his arm is attached by a noodle.

-- Would it surprise you if some of the Sox' youth shows its age? It shouldn't. Happens all the time. Would it surprise you if Craig Kimbrel can't find the plate in a big save situation? It shouldn't. He's shown glimpses of it all season and has never pitched past the division series in his career. Would it surprise you if Hanley Ramirez makes an important mistake at first? Or the Sox' hole at third becomes a factor? Nope and nope.

We could play this game all night.

Now, what do I think is going to happen? I think the Sox are going to pitch well, even Price, and the offense will remain a force. I have full faith in Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Rick Porcello and the lineup in general. There's a feeling on this team that's hard to ignore, likely inspired by Ortiz, and I think they'll keep it going in the postseason. I agree with those who say the Sox have the most talent in the American League, so that's a great place to start. I don't know if that means the ALCS, the World Series or a championship. I just think they'll continue to play well into October.

But all of that is just a feeling, just a prediction -- and you know what those are good for. The point is this: If it goes the other way for the Sox, I think we already have the reasons why.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on CSN.