Beckett trying to stretch himself out

Beckett trying to stretch himself out

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After his morning workout Friday at the Red Sox's Minor League complex, right-hander Josh Beckett said he feels healthy and that getting back into the rotation is a matter of stretching himself out. But he reiterated that multiple starts in July and August are more important than one start in April.

"I think that's basically it, [getting stretched out]," Beckett said. "I don't know what they're planning on doing, but [I'm] just trying to get stretched out right now."

Beckett has been in touch with manager Terry Francona, pitching coach John Farrell, rehab coordinator/assistant trainer Mike Reinold and pitcher Jon Lester during the Sox's trip to Japan and now Los Angeles. He watched the series with the A's in Tokyo early in the morning. Beckett said that baseball and breakfast was an odd combination.

"I didn't see the first part [of the games]," he said. "I don't get up quite that early. But I usually saw from the fourth inning on. I think it was weird, actually, watching them play a baseball game that early in the morning. But talking with some of the guys, I guess it was a pretty good experience."

It hasn't been easy for the Red Sox's ace to be away from his team, watching the games on TV.

"Absolutely," Beckett said. "That's our family this time of year. And you see people, whether it be somebody struggle or see somebody do something good and you want to shake their hand, whatever, [or] you want to pick somebody up when they don't do what they wanted to do. But it is tough."

Although Beckett has had several stints on the disabled list in his career -- including last season, when he missed two starts in May after tearing the skin on his right middle finger -- he has never started a season on the DL until now, which is causing him some frustration.

"It is [frustrating], but at the same time, I know what we're trying to do. It's not my first go-round. I know it's a long season. Like I said two weeks ago, the most important thing is not my April 1 start, [and] it's not my April 10 start. I think exactly what I said [is] 'It's not my April 10 start, it's my July and August starts,'" Beckett said, emphasizing the plural "starts." "I know what we're trying to do. We're not trying to win one game here or one game there. We're trying to do bigger things than that."

While the back spasms that caused him to leave his March 8 start against the Marlins and the lower back tightness that landed him on the 15-day DL have subsided, Beckett said a back injury can worry a pitcher. He went on the DL in 2004 with a strained lower back. But it was his right hip that also caused him concern recently.

"[The back problem] worried me just from the standpoint of I'd never felt anything like that," he said. "I tore an intercostal muscle [in 2004]. It was more frustrating than this was, because it heals when it heals. There's no way to rehab an intercostal muscle. ... But the back injury, it worries you if it's something major, but fortunately for me, it was just one of those things that you slip a little bit and your back catches. I think it was probably more of a good thing that my back caught like that. I think actually what ended up happening was it protected my hip more than anything. And now that's kind of where we're at with the rehab, because after we got the back problem to go away, my [right] hip was what was bothering me."

Beckett was 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA in 2007, the Majors' only 20-game winner and first since 2005. He said he feels he's farther along in his routine than pitch counts may indicate. He made a Minor League start for Double-A Portland on Thursday. He is scheduled to make another start Tuesday in an intrasquad game at the complex.

"Well, I threw four innings yesterday," Beckett said. "I threw 47 pitches and 33 of them were strikes. I don't think a lot of people do that in the first [Spring Training] outing. I think for me it's much more accelerated, because it's not like I came into Spring Training without throwing. I'd thrown seven or eight bullpens before Spring Training. I'd already built up to about 55 pitches. So it's not like I had to start completely over. I had the base built."

Beckett does not minimize the work he is able to do facing Minor League hitters.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "People always make a big deal out of who you're facing. But there's a lot of those guys that I faced yesterday that'll probably end up playing in the big leagues. That's kind of what happens. People that are playing at Double-A generally at least get a taste of the big leagues. So their approach may be different, but I played in Double-A one year, and I've played against a lot of guys in the big leagues that I played against in Double-A."

Told that Triple-A Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson -- for whose club Beckett made a start Saturday -- was impressed by his approach to that start and was glad the younger players could see his drive, Beckett agreed.

"I'm definitely trying to accelerate this," he said. "I want this to be more accelerated than maybe my pitch count shows. I just do the same thing on the day I pitch no matter what. I want the guys all to be behind me, whether I'm pitching for a Double-A team or pitching for an A-ball team. You want those guys behind you. You want them to want to dive for that ball in the hole or you want them to be hungry and go out and score a couple of runs in the first inning. So I think it is a good example for the young guys, because those are the guys you want to have your back."

Although he is eligible to come off the DL on April 3, which is the team's off-day between series in Oakland and Toronto, Beckett is not yet sure of a schedule.

"We're going day-to-day still," Beckett said. "Like I said, the most important thing is not my April 4 start or [April] 3 start. It's later on. So if I need to go to Pawtucket or go to Greenville or whatever to have one more start, we're going to do what's best for the club and what's best for me later on down the road."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.