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Epstein not concerned about Beckett

Epstein not concerned about Beckett

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BOSTON -- In his Monday postmortem with the media, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein emphasized that the health of ace Josh Beckett is not a big concern heading into the offseason.

Because Beckett's velocity was down significantly and his performance was well below the norm in two of his three postseason starts, there was a lot of speculation that perhaps the right-hander had a far more significant injury than the right oblique strain that occurred just before the end of the regular season.

But Epstein said Beckett's shoulder and elbow are fine, and that the oblique was a more significant detriment than people outside the clubhouse realized.

"He'll be fine," Epstein said. "I thought we were pretty upfront about it. I'm perfectly fine elaborating on it. He was throwing a side session -- I think it was the last Friday of the regular season -- just in preparation for Game 1 of the Division Series, and I think it was indoors because it was raining. I think it was the last pitch of his side, his 45th pitch. He strained his oblique."

Because Beckett is such a fierce competitor and has such great importance to the Red Sox, he was able to take the mound just nine days after suffering the injury to start Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Angels. But considering the nature of the injury, that wasn't nearly enough time for Beckett to overcome it and be anything close to 100 percent.

"That's, as you know, for a pitcher, a strained oblique is a pretty serious injury for the short term," said Epstein. "I think it's pretty clear watching him pitch in October that he wasn't at 100 percent, but he deserves all the credit in the world for healing quickly, fighting through it and doing what he needed to do to get out there."

If the Red Sox had gone on to win Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, Beckett's gritty victory in Game 6 could have held a special place in club lore.

"Although he was somewhat diminished, he really battled, and what he did in Game 6 was borderline heroic," Epstein said. "He didn't have his normal stuff. He realized he had to change who he was as a pitcher to get a really good team out, and he did. He integrated a lot more cutters, threw more offspeed stuff, throttled back to locate and he proved that he's able to pitch effectively without his plus, plus velocity. I was really proud of him."

The only cure for an oblique is what Beckett now will have plenty of.

"As far as any lingering effects from the injury, he just needs rest," Epstein said. "The number one prescription for a torn oblique is six weeks of rest. We just couldn't afford that at the time. He just needs to rest and have himself a good offseason, [and do] what he always does and build up his shoulder strength for the coming season."

And if everything goes according to plan, Beckett will take the ball at Fenway Park on April 6, when the Red Sox open their season against, yep, the Tampa Bay Rays.

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

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