Beckett easily handled the Rays, pitching five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and three walks with five strikeouts in Boston's 8-0 win. The 84-pitch effort lowered his Grapefruit League ERA to 0.95 in five starts.
“Josh is working on his changeup a little, and I thought threw a lot of really good pitches today,” said manager Bobby Valentine. “I think he got his work in, put up a bunch of zeros, was competitive working against their hitters and I think that’s what he needed. He’ll have one more short [start]. But he had pretty good stuff today."
Beckett’s next start is scheduled for Sunday against the Twins.
“As far as arm strength and stuff goes, there’s still stuff you got to figure out during the season, too," Beckett said. "I think if you hit the ground running in April, you’re probably not very old. So spring training’s in my opinion a little bit long, but it’s to get everybody ready.
Yesterday it was Lester, now it's Beckett who looks ready. I'll be more excited when he can get to more than five innings, but given his even-year performances throughout his career, I'll be happy to see any productivity.
Beckett's 2006, 2008, and 2010 were noticeable dropoffs (2008 less so) than their prior years. Some more superstitious Sox fans (or those who think he just can't maintain a level of focus and health for more than 18 months) wondered whether 2012 would follow that pattern. If spring training is any indication -- and it very well may not be -- that will not be the case.
Of course, I'm as big a Beckett homer as there is. There is certainly plenty to be concerned about. Could his (overblown) lethargy come around again in 2012? Could his poor workout habits return? What about the blisters?
I suppose all of that is something to worry about, but I think Beckett will be good. He's a stud, and when he's on he's among the game's best.
On page 2, Bobby V thinks Mike Aviles is among the game's best.
Bobby Valentine hit Mike Aviles leadoff today, the second time he has done in that three days.
Is he thinking about that once the season starts?
"Maybe, yeah," the manager said. "Trying to warm up to it, see if I can see it. He quickly strikes fear into a pitcher's heart, I'll tell you that."
Let's nip this in the bud right now. It's a bad idea. As Abraham goes on to point out, Ellsbury sees more pitchers per plate appearance (3.86 to 3.40) and has a better OBP (.376 to .340 last year).
Aviles is also, what, the seventh or eighth best hitter in the lineup? Bobby V is getting too cute here.
Bobby also has a weird way of complimenting players. In the context of trying to pump up Aviles, he took a slight dig at the notoriously sensitive Ellsbury, saying he isn't very patient and only takes pitches when he's faking a bunt.
Everyone needs to relax about Ellsbury moving down in the order, anyway, Valentine included. His power last year is an anomaly, not a sign of things to come. He's more of a leadoff hitter at heart, so the focus needs to be on bringing those skills to the forefront.
Here's my ideal Sox lineup, when everyone's healthy:
Maybe mess around while Crawford is out and let Aviles be near the top. But, obviously, Crawford has a million times more talent and we need to focus about getting the most out of him, rather than worrying about how to maximize Aviles.
CSNNE | Schilling on Valentine: Not going well | Valentine: Anderson would've made another team | Herald | Aviles man in middle | Long story short: It's right move | Lineup may be preview of opener | Josh Beckett, Salty 'good' to go | ESPNBoston | Bobby V: Iglesias not ready | Jose Iglesias' time will come...soon | John Lackey apologizes for remark | Takeaways: Looking at Aviles at leadoff | Red Sox 8, Rays 0 | Globe | Approach here isn't very defensible | Sox send Iglesias down to Triple A | Beckett is zeroed in against Tampa Bay