Beckett displays good form in rehab outing

Pitching for Pawtucket, Josh Beckett allowed just two hits over four innings. Pitching for Pawtucket, Josh Beckett allowed just two hits over four innings. (Joe Giblin/Associated Press)
By Mike Scandura
Globe Correspondent / July 12, 2010

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PAWTUCKET, R.I. — When it comes to real estate, the key is location, location, and location.

Location was the key yesterday when Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett made a rehab start for Triple A Pawtucket, which beat Syracuse, 2-1.

Beckett, who’s been on the disabled list since May 19 with a lower back strain, allowed one run on two hits while pitching four innings.

He didn’t issue any walks, struck out four, and threw 42 of 68 pitches for strikes.

“Maybe he missed a couple of times, but for the most part he located all of his pitches very well,’’ catcher Mark Wagner said. “By that I mean his cutter, curveball, changeups, two-seamers, and sinkers.

“He made my job really easy.’’

Beckett, who declined to speak to the media, topped out at 96 miles per hour on McCoy Stadium’s radar gun.

“You look to make sure he’s getting out over the front side and being able to stretch his back,’’ PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur said about what he looks for in a pitcher who has suffered an injury similar to Beckett’s. “By getting out over the front side, that’s where you’re going to get the extension.

“I saw no problems today. He felt good. I asked him after every inning and didn’t hear any qualms.’’

Syracuse’s Kevin Mench lined a 1-2 pitch to center field for a second-inning single and Jason Botts pulled a 1-2 pitch into the seats in right-center for a solo homer in the fourth.

Wagner blamed himself for Botts’s home run.

“I think that was on me,’’ he said. “I probably called for the wrong pitch. But he stuck with me and he still pitched very well.’’

Beckett’s most difficult batter came in the third, when Boomer Whiting fouled off five 3-and-2 pitches before flying to center.

“We pretty much touched everything we needed that we could see up in the big leagues,’’ Wagner said. “His stuff was getting better as we went on.

“When we were getting ready to take him out, I thought his stuff was getting sharper and crisper. That’s what was really impressive.’’

Beckett struck out Pete Orr to open the fourth and Mench to end it.

Beckett skipped a start in early May with back spasms and reaggravated the injury May 18 while pitching on a wet mound at Yankee Stadium.

Because the injury forced him to alter his mechanics during a bullpen session June 2, the Red Sox shut him down.

He last worked July 6, throwing 65 pitches during a simulated game in Tampa Bay.

“As long as he stays healthy, he should be throwing again in five or six days,’’ Sauveur said of the likelihood of Beckett making another rehab start.

While Beckett didn’t walk anybody, he did go to a full count on four batters, including the first two of the game, Whiting and Orr.

He retired Whiting on a ground out to second and Orr on a foul pop wide of first base that Lars Anderson caught while sprawling on the tarp.

Beckett sandwiched strikeouts of Botts and Seth Bynum around Mench’s hit in the second.

“He talked about commanding the fastball and being aggressive with his fastball,’’ PawSox manager Torey Lovullo said. “The mentality’s always going to be there but his stuff was outstanding.

“I thought he did a good job controlling the tempo of the game. He was throwing a lot of strikes. That’s what we were looking for.’’

Beckett also threw strikes with his offspeed pitches. His slowest pitch was 72 — good separation from the fastball.

“I think the secondary pitches are things that will trickle along,’’ Lovullo said. “But, for the most part, he got through the outing healthy. He felt great.

“His fastball was electric. The secondary stuff, in bits and pieces, was there for him. He threw some quality breaking balls.’’

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