Tale of two nights for Beckett
Right-hander dominant for 4 2/3 innings before struggles begin
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For most of Tuesday night, Josh Beckett was untouchable. With his fastball setting up his curveball and vice versa, the Twins seemed more than perplexed.
With two outs in the fifth, Beckett had notched seven strikeouts and allowed but one baserunner.
"I'm going to tell you something, that first 4 2/3 [innings], I don't know that you can pitch better than that," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "That was three pitches, three different speeds, locating, that was a lot of fun to watch.
Then, as Beckett would say later, "The wheels just fell off."
It was definitely a tale of two nights for the right-hander. In all, he struck out eight and didn't walk a batter. But the overall line -- five innings, six hits, four runs - wound up being less than spectacular.
"We kind of went away from my curveball," said Beckett. "Some balls fell in that maybe sometimes are caught. All in all, it was good. [Jason Varitek] and I worked unbelievable together through the first 4 2/3."
Francona agreed that Beckett became too fastball-reliant once he got in trouble.
"Again, when it started going south a little bit, having something slower that had a different plain to it might have gotten him out of that," Francona said.
As much as Monday's off-day -- the only one for the Red Sox during Spring Training -- was appreciated by Beckett, it might have had something to do with his decline late in Tuesday's outing.
"I didn't feel real strong coming in because I didn't do anything yesterday, no long toss," said Beckett. Maybe it was one of those deals, fatigue or something from not doing the stuff that I usually do the day before I pitch. But I definitely needed that day off. One day off during Spring Training, you're going to take it and do something that you want to do."
He'll likely take the ball in Game 2 of the regular season after ace Curt Schilling.
"I feel great," Beckett said. "The key for everybody is to get out of Spring Training healthy."
As for the curve that he regretted abandoning late in Tuesday's outing, Beckett is pleased with the progress. It is a pitch he didn't command last year like he's done in previous years. But Beckett almost feels as if he has rediscovered an old friend.
"It was really good today," said Beckett. "I threw them for strikes when I wanted to throw them for strikes and I threw them for balls when I wanted to throw them for balls. That was something that I struggled with two starts ago, throwing it for a ball when I wanted to throw it for a ball."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.