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Sunday, March 3, 2013
Josh Beckett looks for a mulligan

By Mark Saxon

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Josh Beckett has seen what happens to teams that create high expectations they can't live up to. Not only has he seen it, he's been stuck in the middle of it, fingered as a divisive figure when two big-money Boston Red Sox teams crashed to the ground in 2011 and 2012.

Now, Beckett sees some parallels with this Los Angeles Dodgers team, which will enter the season with a record payroll. He said he's ready for the challenge of helping to live up to the promise this time.

"In Boston, it was different, but it was a fun different. It doesn't get much better than 7 o'clock to 10 o'clock in Boston, the fans and everything like that," Beckett said. "I think this is going to be like that as well. I think they had 27,000 season tickets sold the last time I checked, which is more than they've ever had."

Five years ago, when he was still in his 20s, Beckett had an intimidating, mid-90s fastball and a devastating curveball. At 32, he no longer has the same arsenal, but he has impressed the Dodgers with an ability to keep hitters guessing. He also won't have to shoulder the same burden of anchoring a rotation. Beckett figures to be the Dodgers' No. 3 or No. 4 starter behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

"I’ve seen too much from him and knew from a competitive standpoint, I didn’t really have any fears," manager Don Mattingly said. "He was Greinke. He was Clayton. This guy knows what he’s doing. He knows how to adjust. His stuff may not be the same dominant stuff, but what’s he doing? He’s adjusting, his changeup is better, he knows how to pitch."

Beckett has gotten off to a fast start this spring, pitching five scoreless innings in which he has allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out six of the 18 batters he has faced. It would appear that Beckett has benefited from a change in leagues as much as a change in clubhouses.

He was 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA for Boston last season, and 2-3 with a 2.93 ERA in seven starts with the Dodgers.

"I just feel like in the American League, when you get beat up, you get beat up for eight, nine runs," Beckett said. "In the National League, your spot generally comes up in the lineup and you don't get to stay out there quite as long."