Beckett's bumps no cause for concern

Beckett's bumps no cause for concern

ST. PETERSBURG -- Despite the fact that Red Sox ace Josh Beckett has been shelled in his past two starts (9 2/3 innings, 20 hits, 15 earned runs), pitching coach John Farrell and manager Terry Francona both feel that the righty's problems are minor and easily fixable.

It all boils down to geography. Beckett's stuff, while nasty, has been frequenting the upper half of the strike zone far too often.

"More than anything, there were probably more balls elevated in the zone than he typically does," Farrell said. "Particularly, on the 2-1 pitch to [Evan] Longoria [in the third inning Thursday]. Building up to that inning, it was two swinging-bunt, infield hits and a walk. He gets in a situation where he has to challenge Longoria with no ability to pitch around him."

Since joining the Red Sox, Beckett's struggles have most always come when he leaves his fastball up. Such was the case in 2006, when the right-hander had a 5.01 ERA and surrendered 36 homers.

When Beckett nearly won the Cy Young Award in 2007, his fastball was consistently knee-high and on the corners.

"Knowing that the last couple of outings have not been his better performances, I think every pitcher, every player, when things aren't going their way, they begin to force things at times," said Farrell. "With a pitcher's case, when you begin to overthrow, or try to maybe do a little more than you're capable of, you sacrifice location."

The main thing for the Red Sox is that Beckett is healthy, something that wasn't true for portions of 2008.

"I'm sure he's frustrated with the results, but from where we sit, he looks so strong," Francona said. "[He's] just got to keep working, keep working, and get some touch-and-feel so he can command a little bit better and not get into hitters' counts. I'd much rather our guys know they're healthy -- especially Beckett. He knows the amount of trust and confidence we have in him. That doesn't go away in a couple of starts."

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