Notes: Winning helps ailing Beckett
Right-hander has unique perspective on finger ailments
NEW YORK -- As Josh Beckett gears up for one more week of waiting before making his return to the rotation on May 29 at Fenway against the Indians, only one thing has made the layoff bearable.
"You know what's helped is winning," said Beckett. "It makes it a lot easier, especially being a starting pitcher."
The Red Sox hold the best record in Major League Baseball at 31-14.
Beckett has been a big reason for that, breaking out to a 7-0 record and posting a 2.66 ERA. His stint on the disabled list was caused by an avulsion on his right middle finger that developed in the fourth inning of his May 13 start against the Orioles. Beckett just wishes he could have finished what he started that day.
"That last start I had probably would have wound up being one of my best starts of the year so far," said Beckett. "That was the best stuff I've had all year. Better than the [Angels] game [on April 16], better than the Baltimore game [on April 26]. As far as stuff goes, that was my best."
But the performance was derailed by an all too familiar nemesis. Beckett dealt with finger problems -- both blisters and avulsions -- repeatedly during his four years with the Marlins.
Beckett doesn't like the setbacks, but he's developed perspective on it.
"It's one of those deals, I dealt with this stuff in Florida," said Beckett. "I let it get me down a lot more. Now, I just need to go out there and give this team good innings. That's what it's all about. I was on a pace to throw 230 innings, but I could still throw 200 innings this year. I don't know if that's going to happen, this could happen again and I'd have to take 15 more days, hopefully it doesn't. This is something I'm going to have to deal with."
Beckett has gained an education from talking to doctors.
"What eczema is is my skin breaks down faster than everybody else's," said Beckett. "I've seen every doctor the last week and a half. I've seen every doctor available in Boston. They've been out there two or three times a piece and we've just been talking, and that's what they've been telling me. The skin doctors tell me, 'Eczema is your skin breaking down twice as fast as everybody else's.' It's one of those things, [and] there's nothing I can do about it. I can't let all those things worry me."
Prior to Tuesday's game, Beckett played catch with no bandage covering his finger. There are no more hurdles to climb before he returns to the rotation. It's simply a matter of his DL time expiring. Beckett will throw roughly five innings worth of pitches in a side session before Wednesday's game.
"I'm keeping my arm strength up, that's all I can do right now," Beckett said. [Pitching coach] John Farrell has been awesome, coming in and working with me and making sure I'm getting my throwing in, making sure I'm throwing enough pitches to keep my arm strength up. When I come back, I should be in that 90 to 100 pitch range, so I should be able to go some innings for this team."
For as Beckett pointed out, things could be a lot worse.
"There's nothing I can do about it. It could be a lot worse. I could be out three months right now having some kind of surgery or something," said Beckett as he literally knocked on his wooden locker.
Pedroia taken by surprise: Alex Rodriguez came barreling into Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia in the eighth inning, breaking up a double play.
Pedroia, however, didn't necessarily think it was a clean take-out.
"He went in late and kind of threw an elbow," said Pedroia. "A little cheap, but no big deal."
Next time, Pedroia said he would be better prepared for A-Rod.
"I remember it. I play second base," Pedroia said. "I have to turn two against the Yankees 19 times a year. I know now that he when he's coming in, my arm slot gets dropped to the floor. That's it. No big deal."
Drew searching: Right fielder J.D. Drew continues to try to fight his way out of a prolonged slump, which has seen him get just 14 hits in his last 87 at-bats. Over that span, his average went from .375 to .237. Drew has just five RBIs in May. He's gone 81 at-bats without a homer.
What does Drew do to try to get out of a slump?
"A little of everything," Drew said. "Mix it up a little, keep some things the same. It hasn't been a very good month, I know that. It's been one of those tough go-arounds where you don't want to over-do it, but you definitely want to mix it up. I feel like I've hit some balls good, hit some ball right at people and haven't had anything to show for it. It's just a matter of keeping composed and doing the things you've always done at this level to be successful."
Drew, who is known for being even-keeled, isn't getting overly worked up.
"I think the tendency is any time things go bad you always try to do too much," Drew said. "In a perfect world, you'd get seven hits in five at-bats. I think it all revolves around having at-bats when you get a hit or two a night and work your way out of it."
Dice-K changes up side: Despite putting together solid outings in his last three starts, right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka still is finding things to improve on. Matsuzaka spent much of Tuesday's side session working on his changeup, which wasn't as effective as his other pitches in his last few starts. Specifically, Matsuzaka told Japanese media members that he was working on an alteration of the grip of his change.
Special visitor: That was none other than Yankees legend Yogi Berra roaming the Red Sox clubhouse before Tuesday's game. Red Sox manager Terry Francona's father, Tito, played against Berra for many years.
"He just came in and said hello. He always does," Francona said. "It's kind of fun to get a chance to have him say hello. I think everybody likes it. It's pretty awesome from my point of view. I always heard the stories from my dad, 'You look at the numbers,' he used to say, 'from the seventh inning on. You never wanted to see him hit.' I never forgot that."
Marquee matchup: At the same time the Red Sox and Yankees are wrapping up this three-game series in the Bronx on Wednesday night, a most appealing pitching matchup will take place in Trenton, N.J. That is where Roger Clemens makes the next step in his comeback with the Yankees against Boston's Double-A affiliate, the Portland Sea Dogs. Pitching for Portland is one of Boston's best pitching prospects in right-hander Clay Buchholz.
"That's pretty cool," Francona said. "I'm sure that will be a very exciting night for him. Knowing Clay the little I do, he'll be excited and very respectful of the whole idea. I hope he pitches better than [Clemens], too."
Multi-tasking: Yes, Francona has made it clear he's growing weary of answering questions about his team's big lead in the standings. In fact, during his Tuesday radio interview on the popular "Mike and the Mad Dog show" on WFAN, Francona confessed to being less than riveted by that line of questioning.
"I actually started doing my crossword puzzle in the meantime, so I think I'm getting OK about answering without trying to get anybody mad," Francona said. "I'm getting to the point where I can do that and get 41 across at the same time."
On deck: The Sox send ace Curt Schilling to the mound in Wednesday's series finale against fellow accomplished veteran Andy Pettitte. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.