Red Sox notebook

Beckett's key: Easy does it

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / February 12, 2009
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FORT MYERS, Fla. - By the end of last season, it was clear Josh Beckett wasn't himself. He was dominated instead of dominating in the postseason. He was injured (oblique strain) and wasn't able to pitch the way he was accustomed to pitching. So Beckett set out to do the one thing that could help him regain his form: rest.

"With the prolonged rest, a chance for his body to recover, it's really what he needed most is just to get away from the game, to allow his body to recoup physically, which it has done," pitching coach John Farrell said. "His workouts, even when he started back in with the strength and conditioning program, the early part of the throwing program, there were no issues. He comes in today, and as his progression has continued, he's probably more in line with where he was in '07 rather than the start of '08 in large part because he had a couple extra weeks to rest and recover."

That's good news for the Red Sox. And that was probably why Beckett drew a crowd of major and minor leaguers yesterday at 9:15 a.m. when he threw a 62-pitch bullpen session that showed him to be in good shape, perhaps ready for a season more like his near-Cy Young performance in 2007.

He didn't change his program in the offseason, or make adjustments to his workout routine, Farrell said. He simply rested.

"His offseason program is consistent with what he's done in the past, and evidenced by his physical status or physical stature, the way he looks just subjectively plus the way he's tested out so far, he's in very good shape," Farrell said.

Beckett wasn't the only Sox pitcher to throw a bullpen. The righthander, who declined to speak with the media, was followed by Jon Lester, Hideki Okajima, Brad Penny, and Takashi Saito, among others.

"Guys that threw bullpens today, it was really their last bullpen before we begin in earnest on Saturday," Farrell said. "So it was right in line with their individual throwing programs and their progression leading up to the start of camp. So far, everybody that has stepped on the mound, we've had no physical [problems] to speak of."

Healthy alliance
With so many unknowns surrounding Rocco Baldelli's health this season, the outfielder and the team are working together to develop a suitable program. Baldelli arrived Monday, more than a week before position players are supposed to report. "What we're going to really do with Rocco is try to back him off enough where the game is the goal, and we're going to need some cooperation from him," manager Terry Francona said. "I think we've got him at a time where he's not a 22-year-old kid where he thinks he has to be the first kid in the rundowns, then when the game starts he can't do what he can do. So we're going to be very supportive of him and hopefully make it easier for him to help us win games. We're very aware of trying to back him off at times. It will be almost like a partnership."

Mixing it up
Farrell said the team will have a specific plan with Jonathan Papelbon, "monitoring where he doesn't become so predictable." Papelbon showed an overreliance on his fastball at times last season, which hitters were able to sit on. Farrell worked with the closer on mixing in his slider and splitter, which produced better results. That will continue . . . According to Farrell, the team is still figuring out which of its catchers will work with Tim Wakefield now that Kevin Cash is gone. There have been informal discussions about Jason Varitek taking on the role, but nothing has been decided. Josh Bard seems the likely candidate for the job, one he struggled with in his first go-round with the Sox . . . There were only a few new arrivals yesterday, notably Wakefield, Javier Lopez, and Clay Buchholz.

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