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Saturday, August 30, 2008
Beckett gets 'good' news

By Stephania Bell

Friday was a big day for Josh Beckett -- and not on the mound.

The right-handed ace has been experiencing numbness and tingling in his right ring and pinky fingers for some time now, signs that the ulnar nerve is irritated. The ulnar nerve, which wraps around the inside of the elbow near the funny bone, can be stressed with pitching, especially if the ligament there is compromised. That would be the ulnar collateral ligament -- and yes, that's the Tommy John surgery ligament. But inflammation in the elbow, which can simply be a result of overuse and in that case would be far less serious, can also put pressure on the nerve and cause these types of symptoms.

Josh Beckett
The news on Beckett's elbow could have been worse.

Beckett was concerned by the fact that the numbness was lingering despite a couple of scratched starts and limited throwing activity, so he sought the opinion of Dr. James Andrews, whom he has seen in the past. According to ESPN news reports, Beckett's reasons for consulting with Andrews were simple: "I don't trust anybody more than I trust him when it comes to stuff like that," Beckett said. "Just to go down there and hear it from him. It's something I needed to do, just to clear my mind."

After a complete once-over by Andrews, Red Sox manager Terry Francona indicated that all major tests came back clean, showing no structural damage in Beckett's pitching elbow. You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief being breathed by the Red Sox, their fans and Beckett's fantasy owners when considering the big picture for Beckett. But what is his status in the short term?

Well, the Red Sox placed Beckett on the disabled list Friday, but because it was retroactive to Aug. 18, he is eligible to return to the team on Wednesday. They hope to start him Friday against the Rangers, which gives him another week of recuperation. Rest is often the key to alleviating these symptoms, and Beckett has said the elbow has been gradually improving. However, the nerve is on its own timetable, and nerve tissue is notoriously slow to heal. Don't be surprised, fantasy owners, if his return needs to be delayed again as the Red Sox care for his big-picture status.