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With braced ankle, Beckett pushes on

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / September 11, 2011

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Josh Beckett could return to the Red Sox rotation as soon as next weekend, having successfully tested the stability of his sprained right ankle yesterday.

Beckett was on the field four hours before the Sox lost to the Rays last night, 6-5 in 11 innings. With his ankle in a brace, he threw from 120 feet and then tried a series of fastballs, changeups, and breaking pitches from 60 feet.

Beckett said the idea of throwing a bullpen session on Tuesday or Wednesday and then pitching in a game three days later is realistic as far as he is concerned.

“It’s not my decision,’’ said Beckett. “I think the trainers [have] got to be comfortable with where I’m at. I don’t see it being too, too much longer.

“That sounds reasonable. But like I said, it’s not my decision. Obviously they’re going to have my input. I’m ready to come back when everybody feels good.’’

Manager Terry Francona agreed with the idea that Beckett’s next step will be to take the mound.

“He’s doing actually pretty good,’’ said Francona. “Minimal soreness. We’ll continue to reevaluate him and see how he does. But he’s doing good.’’

Beckett said getting out to 120 feet was important.

“I wanted to see how it feels pushing off,’’ he said. “That’s the really big issue, my body weight on it pushing. It feels a lot better today. Two days ago it was pretty rough.’’

Beckett provided a little more detail about his injury, saying the joint was sprained, not any ligaments, as is the case with a traditional sprained ankle. One of his ligaments, in fact, was severed when he was in middle school. The fluid in the joint is what causes him pain in the form of a pinching sensation.

Beckett feared initially that he had partially torn his Achilles’ tendon when he stumbled on the mound in Toronto last Monday and came out of the game.

“When I first came in, it hurt bad. It was really bothering me,’’ he said.

Beckett is confident the injury will not be an issue if the Sox get to the postseason.

“I’m hoping that this isn’t a question mark,’’ he said. “It needs to be 100 percent or at least close to 100 percent whenever I come back because it makes everyone look foolish if you go back out there and hurt it five pitches in.’’

Youkilis still out Kevin Youkilis will not play this weekend after getting a shot to ease the bursitis in his left hip Friday. He will rejoin the team Tuesday.

“We’ll see where he’s at,’’ Francona said.

Francona also confirmed a report by the Globe that Youkilis has a hernia that is likely to require surgery after the season.

“We’ll certainly have to check him out when the season’s over to see what needs to be done, if anything,’’ Francona said. “For now he’ll play as tolerated and I think they believe he can play. If he needs to get a day off, we can certainly do that.’’

Youkilis has played only seven games since Aug. 17 because of injuries.

Looking better John Lackey, who left Friday night’s game after being struck on the left calf by a ball off the bat of John Jaso, expects to make his start on Wednesday.

“I’m fine. It’s a lot better,’’ he said.

Lackey is 12-12 with a 6.30 ERA.

Lefthander Erik Bedard rejoined the team Friday night after getting a strained lat checked out in Boston. He also has a sore left knee. Bedard missed his start on Friday and is likely to miss another one.

He has yet to start throwing.

“He’s improving. The one thing we don’t want to do is rush him back,’’ Francona said. “It’s so easy to make mistakes when you feel like you’re kind of getting thin. We’re going to try and do the best we can and get these guys healthy so they can really help us.’’

Role reversal? The Sox have discussed the idea of using Alfredo Aceves as a starter to give the rotation some depth. But, for now, he’s more valuable in the bullpen. After throwing four innings (two runs, three hits) last night, Aceves is 8-1 with a 2.34 ERA in 42 relief appearances. He is 1-1, 5.14 in four starts.

“He’s a pretty good pitcher; I acknowledge that. I think he could start for us,’’ Francona said. “I’m not sure it’s fair to him. What he’s done already is kind of miraculous.

“If we don’t have him in the bullpen, I’m not sure where we go right now. So it’s not just the idea of him starting, because he can do that. I don’t know how you replace him in the bullpen.’’

Last night was the first time Aceves has thrown more than 3 2/3 innings in a game since June 21. Aceves has made 11 relief appearances of three innings or more, the most in the majors.

False starts Sox starters have given up 17 earned runs over 17 innings in the last four games. Kyle Weiland surrendered three in four innings last night . . . The Sox are 5-8 against the Rays this year . . . Jacoby Ellsbury has six home runs against Tampa Bay this season. He has a 15-game hitting streak . . . Conor Jackson has been cleared to play after running into the bullpen wall at Fenway Park last Sunday. He had a badly bruised right knee . . . No progress for J.D. Drew, who remains unable to play because of a sprained knuckle on the middle finger of his right hand . . . Indications are that righthanded reliever Bobby Jenks will require back surgery . . . A well-tanned Daisuke Matsuzaka, visiting his teammates this weekend, spoke to reporters and said his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery is going well . . . The Pawtucket Red Sox were eliminated from the International League playoffs, losing Game 3 of their first-round series against Lehigh Valley, 3-1.

Peter Abraham can be reached at

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