FORT MYERS, Fla. –- Josh Beckett walked into the Red Sox clubhouse at City of Palms Park Thursday afternoon, sporting sunglasses and carrying a Titleist driver.
The right-hander wasn’t preparing to tee off, he was rather about to make his spring debut against the Twins on Thursday night. He worked two innings in the game, allowing one run on two hits with one strikeout. He threw a total of 27 pitches (19 strikes).
“I felt like I kept the ball down,” he said. “The things I’ve been working on the past two weeks, I’m getting there.”
Those things he said he’s been working on include pounding the strike zone and making sure to keep the ball down.
“A lot of that comes from timing, and I think everybody here is trying to get that timing back,” he said. “It’s not like everyone here is in midseason form.”
Despite the game time temperature of 53 degrees, Beckett said he felt good and the cold was not a factor. Because the normal spring training day begins at 8 o’clock in the morning, the 7 p.m. start made for a long day for Beckett.
This is the fifth season in Boston for the 29-year-old ace, and no doubt he’s become a leader on and off the field for the Sox.
“He’s solid. He works, he’s accountable and the players love him, so that goes a long way,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “When the players like a guy, and look up to him, it’s nice that he has those attributes. I know if you talk to [Jon] Lester, Lester will say [Beckett] has rubbed off on him. Now we’re hoping Lester will rub off on people, because it’s good.”
The Red Sox made a huge splash when they traded shortstop prospect Hanley Ramirez as part of a seven-player trade with the Florida Marlins to acquire Beckett on Nov. 24, 2005. Even though Ramirez has become one of the best players in the game, Beckett has been worth it for Boston.
“When we got Beckett, we heard he was good, young and I think the word 'brash' may be appropriate. I remember thinking, that’s not the guy I see so much," Francona said. "Also, he’s grown up. We quickly thought this guy is a pretty solid guy.
“I remember saying, ‘He’s very stubborn and I think some day we’re really going to like it.’ I think that happened. He’s a pro, and that’s good.”
Beckett will become a free agent at the end of the 2010 season, but the Red Sox have made a commitment to try to sign him to an extension.