NEW YORK - Josh Beckett's next scheduled start had been pushed back from Saturday to Tuesday to tonight in the wake of tingling and numbness in his pitching hand before his last start Aug. 17. And now he has been scratched entirely, with no next start date in sight.
Instead of pitching at Fenway Park tonight, Beckett will consult with Dr. James Andrews on an elbow issue.
"Those symptoms have subsided for the most part," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said after yesterday's loss to the Yankees. "But it's still just not quite 100 percent. We don't feel comfortable pitching him unless he is 100 percent, because we have to take his long-term interests and the team's long-term interests into account first and foremost. So, again, mainly for his peace of mind as much as anything else, he's going to go see Dr. Andrews on Friday."
It seemed Beckett was getting better. He threw a side session Tuesday and said the next day things had improved. Though he said he was "still day to day," it appeared he might pitch tonight.
"We don't want to put any pitcher in a position where he has to take the mound at anything less than 100 percent," Epstein said. "So we think this is the right move. We had him penciled in. I think you could tell from our answers to you guys the last couple of days we thought this might be a possibility. It's the right thing to do."
All along, Beckett had seemed more concerned about the injury than anyone else. While manager Terry Francona initially attributed the numbness and tingling to Beckett sleeping on his right arm awkwardly before his last start, Beckett said Wednesday, "I think scary is probably a good word for it. I've had some sleepless nights thinking about all kinds of stuff. You generally think the worst."
After Beckett gave up eight runs on eight hits in 2 1/3 innings Aug. 17 against the Blue Jays, Francona was asked whether his starter was healthy. Francona said he was. He said it again the next day in Baltimore, before finally acknowledging Aug. 19 that Beckett had felt the tingling and numbness. That was when Beckett was pushed back for the first time. Over the weekend in Toronto, Francona said the issue was inflammation in Beckett's right elbow.
Epstein said his understanding was that the tingling and numbness were no longer present. Beckett left without commenting after yesterday's game. Epstein declined to discuss the treatment or details of what the diagnosis could be. He also did not offer a reason to scratch Beckett, other than "the elbow itself doesn't feel 100 percent."
"We're always concerned for all of our pitchers when they're less than 100 percent, but we're pretty optimistic this thing's getting better," Epstein said. "It just makes sense. Josh has a great relationship with Andrews; he's an accomplished doctor. Get another opinion here, hope he comes back and can take the ball pretty soon."
So Beckett will meet with the renowned orthopedic specialist, with whom he has a history. Beckett consulted with Andrews when he was still a prospect in the Marlins system, and Andrews advised against surgery on a slightly torn labrum. Beckett made it through without surgery in 2000.
"We're trying to figure out what's causing it and go from there," Beckett said Wednesday. "Right now it's just day to day and I'm dealing with it. We have a great medical staff. We're trying to be cautious. We're not talking about just the end of a season, but about the end of a career. Some organizations would do anything they could to get a player back out there. I appreciate what they are doing for me here."
With Beckett out, Daisuke Matsuzaka will start tonight against the White Sox. David Pauley will go tomorrow.
The absence of their ace puts even more pressure on the starters as the Red Sox attempt to nail down a postseason spot in the last month of the season.
"It's obviously tough on the team," Jon Lester said. "He's one of our horses and a guy that we count on for a lot of innings. But he's got to take care of his body. If his body's telling him, 'I can't pitch,' then he can't pitch. We're going to do our best to pick up his slack."