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Beckett gets back at it

Birthday boy must pass bullpen test

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 15, 2010

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DETROIT — Josh Beckett turns 30 today and missed his last start because of a bad back.

“Guess I’m an old man,’’ he said with a rueful grin.

But Beckett is prepared to get back to work. He will throw in the bullpen this afternoon and if that goes well he’ll start against the Yankees Tuesday in New York.

Beckett injured his back in batting practice Monday and said he could “hardly walk’’ the next day. But he was able to long toss at Fenway Park Thursday afternoon and repeated that exercise yesterday.

“I think he feels pretty good,’’ manager Terry Francona said.

Beckett was on the field at Comerica Park four hours before the Red Sox’ 7-2 victory over Tigers last night with pitching coach John Farrell.

The two started 60 feet apart before Beckett moved to 150 feet. The righthander was fluid, throwing out of an abbreviated windup and following through without apparent discomfort.

“[Thursday] went good. [Yesterday] went great,’’ Beckett said. “That’s kind of the way I would sum it up. We got it loosened up.’’

Beckett’s final hurdle will be the bullpen session. Tim Wakefield, who started in place of Beckett Wednesday, will also throw.

If Beckett has any problem, Wakefield will face the Yankees.

“Both pitchers are kind of aware of what’s going on. We’ll see how everybody shows up [today],’’ Francona said.

Beckett rode an exercise bike after his throwing session and pushed his body for the first time since the muscle spasm.

“It’s definitely better,’’ he said. “These things kind of go at their own course. Sometimes they can take longer than other times. I definitely think this one was one that took its own course.’’

Beckett is 1-1 with a 7.46 ERA. He had a bizarre outing against the Yankees last Friday, pitching well for five innings before giving up six runs on four hits, two walks, and two hit batters in the sixth.

The Yankees have hit Beckett hard twice this season. But the Red Sox will not hide Beckett from them.

“We believe in Beckett,’’ Francona said. “We don’t want to send him out there when he’s not ready to pitch. If he is, he’ll figure it out.’’

Said Beckett: “I can’t concern myself with the past. I’ve got to look at the bright side. I am feeling better. I’m not really too concerned with the last inning that I pitched. Obviously it’s there and there are some things that need to be rectified whenever I pitch again. Hopefully it’s Tuesday.’’

Stage left
Mike Cameron played left field for Pawtucket last night in his fourth injury rehabilitation game, going 2 for 4 with a solo homer, and throwing out a runner at second base.

He will stay with the team for tonight’s game against Syracuse. It’s uncertain if Cameron will play tomorrow. But if he feels good, he will join the Red Sox in New York Monday.

Cameron has been out since April 19 with an abdominal strain.

“I think he feels good,’’ Francona said. “The biggest thing he’s fighting is what guys feel when they come into spring training. His body’s sore. But not the abdominal part. That part is doing well.’’

If playing left field is easier on Cameron physically, he could play there Monday. But the long-term plan is for Cameron to remain in center.

“It’s not a change in philosophy,’’ Francona said. “We kind of want to cover everything depending on how he’s feeling.’’

As for Jacoby Ellsbury, he accompanied the team on the trip and took batting practice again. He has been out for 34 days with hairline fractures in four ribs.

At this point the team is waiting for Ellsbury to say he’s ready to start a rehab assignment.

“When he’s ready to go, we’ll get him some at-bats,’’ Francona said.

Friendly voice
Francona was on the Tigers’ coaching staff in 1996 and recalled spending time with beloved radio broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who died May 4.

The Tigers are wearing patches with Harwell’s initials and there is a flag flying in center field that reads “EH.’’

“He was a gentleman. Every person you talk to is going to use that word,’’ Francona said.

Francona remembered attending a luncheon and hearing Harwell recite a poem about baseball.

“I’m glad I went,’’ he said, “because it was good.’’

Radio broadcasters, Francona said, are an important part of the baseball experience.

“I remember when I was a little kid listening to [Pirates broadcaster] Bob Prince,’’ he said. “I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way, you felt like they were part of the family.’’

In good hands
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Red Sox are the only team in baseball not to have an error charged to a first or second baseman this season . . . The Tigers called up outfielder Casper Wells from Triple A Toledo and optioned righthander Alfredo Figaro. Detroit plans to call up righthander Armando Galarraga to start the final game of the series tomorrow. He was 6-10 with a 5.64 ERA for the Tigers last season . . . Francona spent 30 minutes during batting practice talking to Tigers manager Jim Leyland. They have known each other since 1981 and Francona selected Leyland to the All-Star Game coaching staff in 2008. “He’s a lot of what’s good about baseball,’’ Francona said. “He respects the game a lot. He’s good for the game of baseball. When the game starts he wants to beat your brains out and I respect that, too. He’s a good man.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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