Beckett takes great pains to say he's OK

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / October 13, 2008
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For Josh Beckett, there was little left to say yesterday afternoon. He had been asked, over and over, if his health is an issue. Given that he has allowed 12 earned runs on 18 hits over his 9 1/3 innings in two postseason games, and had missed time recently because of an elbow problem and an oblique strain, the questions seemed justified. Beckett did, after all, get an injection of a painkiller and an anti-inflammatory the last weekend of the regular season.

"I can understand it," Beckett said about the queries from the media. "But if I tell you I'm fine, that's what you've got to go on. Unless you guys are getting information somewhere else, I don't know what to tell you guys. You guys keep asking me the same question about my health. I tell you I'm fine. Just go on that. Write that. I'm fine."

Except he's not fine. Whether that's because of injury or ineffectiveness, the Red Sox now have lost both of Beckett's starts in this postseason, the only two losses they have. It's quite a reversal from the 2007 postseason when Beckett got the win in each of his four starts, allowing just four runs in 30 innings, as the Sox won the World Series.

Despite the avowals of the Red Sox that Beckett is fine, it seems difficult to understand where the ineffectiveness is coming from. Pitchers don't just lose multiple miles per hour off their fastballs, as Beckett has, without something being wrong. Could it be the elbow he dealt with in August? Perhaps, though it's hard to believe the Sox would put their ace in jeopardy. Could it be the oblique? Sure, even as Beckett and others say that hasn't been a problem. Could it be the rust of having pitched little in the final months of the season (34 1/3 innings since Aug. 17)? Possibly.

Instead, command and consistency have taken the blame, justified or not.

"He feels pretty good physically," manager Terry Francona said. "We spent a few minutes with him a little bit ago just trying to go through what his day will be like today, because today is a big work day. And again, just to double-check and make sure he's OK, because as we all know, when guys are competing, guys will fib or try to get through it.

"No, he's fine. He's certainly battling some consistency issues, and I think some of that is having some of your starts interrupted and then having the oblique a couple weeks ago. You know, it's been a battle for him."

With that diminished fastball - and diminished results - the focus now turns to a possible Game 6, the next scheduled start for Beckett. When asked if he would be making that start, Beckett said, "Yeah. Did you guys hear something?"

He followed that with a somewhat profane assessment of his last outing: "I pitched like [expletive]. I gave up eight [expletive] runs."

"Earlier he battled through his [elbow]," reliever Manny Delcarmen said. "Now his oblique. It shows that he can try to go out there and pitch and try to give us a victory, try to get us a win. It just shows the heart that he has, to try to go out there. The way he pitched [Saturday night], 92 to 94 with location, it's just tough with an oblique. It's tough to pitch through injury."

So Beckett can't (or won't) explain the problem, and is left only with the results. Which aren't, no matter how you look at it, what he's used to.

"It's frustrating," he said. "It really is. For your team to score eight runs and for you to not be able to hold any of the three leads they give you in a game, it's frustrating."

And difficult to watch, especially for teammates who are pulling for him as much as he's expecting to win himself.

"It's tough," said today's Game 3 Sox starter, Jon Lester. "It's tough for any pitcher. It doesn't matter who you are, what your postseason record is, what your regular-season record is. You never want to see a teammate, let alone a pitcher, go through stuff like that. And everybody has starts like that, and he battled his butt off.

"Those games are tough, mentally very tough games, because you're out there, you're focused, and you're trying to do what you know how to do, and it's not cooperating with you."

Nothing was cooperating with Beckett Saturday night, not his pitches, not himself. So he watched his postseason ERA sky toward mortal territory, his 1.73 ERA turning to 2.09 after the Division Series, and 2.85 after Saturday's start. And, as much as Beckett was ready to be done with the recent past, so were the rest of the Sox.

"That happened [Saturday]," catcher Jason Varitek said. "We've got to turn the page with Josh, and do what we need to do to make things right next time he throws. We can't do anything about what happened [Saturday]."

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at

American League Championship Series
Series Overview
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