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03/12/09 5:54 PM ET

Beckett mows down yet another lineup

As Red Sox ace continues to deal, Masterson showing his value

JUPITER, Fla. -- Though Red Sox ace Josh Beckett still has another four starts to get ready for his Opening Day turn against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 6, he is already past the experimental phase of Spring Training.

"I think baseball situations are kind of taking precedence over working on stuff," said Beckett. "Obviously, you're still trying to build up, but now you're thinking through a lineup and stuff like that."

Beckett has been mowing through lineups this spring. In his four outings, he's given up just five hits and no runs over 11 innings.

Against the Cardinals on Thursday, Beckett went through four innings that looked almost effortless. He threw 50 pitches and allowed two hits, walking one and striking out two.

"Fifty pitches in four innings, that's a nice outing," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

The walk was Beckett's first of Spring Training.

"And really, the walk today was almost about managing a lineup," said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. "When he got behind, he wasn't going to give in. So some of the game awareness and game planning is starting to emerge, which you like to see at this point and time as well."

This has been a workmanlike camp for Beckett, who is not only getting quality results but doing it with efficiency.

"First and foremost, he's come in throwing the ball with power, with command," said Farrell. "The nagging injuries that plagued him a year ago have not been evident at any one point and time. I think we're seeing him not only build arm strength but build endurance. Again, he was pitching ahead in the count -- 13 out of 15 first-pitch strikes. I thought he did a great job doubling up with his curveball and his changeup. Some of the goals and objectives that we've set out for this camp, he's accomplishing."

Beckett wasn't the only Sox pitcher to have a productive day in Jupiter. Be it as a starter or in relief, Justin Masterson continues to get hitters out. He came out of the bullpen to fire two scoreless innings, walking one and striking out two. Masterson is unscored upon in his nine innings of work this spring.

"He's a pitcher," said Farrell. "It doesn't matter if it's the first inning, the eighth inning, the ninth inning, he goes out and gets people out."

With three weeks left in the exhibition schedule, the Red Sox aren't in a rush to define Masterson's role.

"There's a lot that can happen in the next couple of weeks," Farrell said. "But again, we have some candidates in the rotation. It will be encouraging [Friday] with Brad Penny taking the mound again. Clay Buchholz has been outstanding. Providing everyone continues to do their job, it will make our decision difficult, but in a good way."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.