Beckett healthy, ready; Martinez will catch
ANAHEIM, Calif. - When Josh Beckett entered the 2008 postseason, he was hardly the pitcher the Red Sox had come to expect. An oblique injury led to substandard numbers. The pitcher who had entered with a 6-2 record and 1.73 ERA in the playoffs proceeded to put up an 8.79 ERA in three starts, none of which lasted longer than five innings.
That’s why, when asked about the differences between this American League Division Series and last year’s, Beckett said, “As far as physically coming in, it’s a lot better.’’
And while Beckett’s numbers weren’t overwhelming over the latter part of this season, his health bodes well.
“There’s no issues physically at all,’’ said Beckett, who will start Game 2 tonight against the Angels with Victor Martinez as his catcher. “Obviously, last year was a little bit different. I’m just looking forward to going out there and doing what I’m supposed to do.’’
Although Beckett is more comfortable with Jason Varitek behind the plate, Martinez who caught Beckett’s last side session, is 3 for 8 with four walks against Angels starter Jered Weaver. It was also the first time Martinez has caught a Beckett side session.
Beckett dealt with back spasms leading up to his second-to-last start of this season, and received three trigger-point injections of cortisone. The righthander returned to make one start, in which he struggled in the first two innings before regaining his effectiveness over the final three.
“He’s ready to go,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “No problems. I think we handled it like we needed to. We needed to have him miss a start, knowing that he would be a little rusty, but I think we did the right thing.’’
So Beckett appears ready to make good on his reputation in the postseason, ready to reverse his results of last year, and his results over his last nine starts, in which he had a 6.02 ERA. He did, however, improve in his final five starts with a 3.77 ERA, though it was a stretch in which opponents batted .283 against him.
“I think the focus is going to be there,’’ Beckett said, when asked about how he approaches the postseason. “I think the extra adrenaline helps that. So, I think everybody’s a little more locked in in the postseason.
“It is just another game. You’ve got to go out there and do exactly the same things you did in the game you were successful in [during] the regular season.’’
That will be the plan when Beckett faces the Angels, a team he hasn’t had a lot of success against, with a 4.13 ERA in eight career starts. But a healthy Beckett did make quick work of the Angels in the 2007 Division Series, when he threw a shutout against them after a season in which he finished second in the Cy Young voting.
“He works really hard every day of the week, so when his day comes he can go out and be ready to rise to the occasion,’’ Francona said. “He doesn’t have to try to push a button. He’s prepared for what he’s supposed to do. Because of his talent, he put that together in a lot of big situations. He’s come up big.’’
“I think we wanted to take every chance we could to see if there was a lot of improvement, and it just wasn’t reaching, so we didn’t want to make a mistake,’’ said Francona.
“He can’t run. He hasn’t even been able to swing yet. He’s been doing some dry swings, but that’s about it.’’
After last night’s 5-0 loss, Baldelli said he’s focused on making the roster for the second round if the Sox advance. He’s likely to start testing the hip flexor next week.
“We decided that I wasn’t going to be able to get out there, and if I was able to get out there, I didn’t want to reinjure it and be at risk of not playing at all in the postseason,’’ Baldelli. “So my goal is to hopefully be ready to go next series. That’s what I’m shooting for.
“Last year, playing in the playoffs is the most fun I’ve ever had playing, and it was something I was - and I still am - looking forward to. And hopefully I’ll still get the chance.’’
The loss of Baldelli could prove significant, with the Angels starting lefthanders in Games 3 and 4, and the presence of lefty closer Brian Fuentes.
Francona said he remains confident with David Ortiz and J.D. Drew in the lineup, and that both might have played against the lefthanders even if Baldelli were on the roster. Instead, the Sox will have Anderson as their righthanded-hitting outfielder off the bench.
“Good outfielder,’’ Francona said of Anderson, who came from the White Sox in the Mark Kotsay deal. “He’s not going to be the righthanded bat that Rocco is, but he has the ability to be a very good defensive outfielder, and possibly pinch run, do some things like that.’’
Baldelli has not spoken to the media since injuring his hip flexor in last Friday’s game against the Indians.
The time for Monday’s Game 4, if necessary, will be 8:37 p.m., unless the other American League series has been decided. If Sox-Angels is the only game Monday, it will be at 7:37 p.m.
Wednesday’s Game 5, if necessary, will be at 9:37 p.m. at Angel Stadium, unless it is the only game, in which case it will begin at 8:07 p.m.
Adam Kilgore of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.