Josh Beckett had a very good start tonight, allowing four runs in eight innings. He struggled a bit in the early innings, having some command issues and yielding a two run home run in the second. But, after yielding another run in the fourth, he seemed to gain better control of his fastball and settled down. He threw only 100 pitches over the eight innings, and was trying to mix more changeups in along with his fastball and curveball. Very few pitchers can get by on just two pitches, and as good as Beckett is, he does need a third pitch, even if he uses it rarely. A power pitcher like Beckett would likely try to feature a two-seam sinking fastball as a third pitch to use to mix up hitters and try to get a groundball in tight situations. His third pitch, though, is the changeup. However, for a pitcher who throws 95-97 MPH on his straight fastball and drops his curveball in at 77-79 MPH, Beckett’s changeup should come across the plate in the low 80s, but Beckett’s whistles past at 90-91. He does seem to have good control over it, and he always keeps it down, but he has to be very careful with this pitch. Because it is coming in as fast as most people’s fastball, it probably looks more like a fastball than a changeup. If hitters are late on his fastball, they may be able to time his changeup well. He has to keep that pitch down if he wants it to be effective, but it still may not be the best third pitch option for Beckett. For the record, though, all of the four runs Beckett gave up came off of his fastball.
It was mentioned in the recap yesterday that the lineup would hit their stride again when Jacoby Ellsbury came back, and, at least for two games, they have. (The Sox improved to 13-2 when Ellsbury scores a run). This is not to do any patting on the back, but it was brought up in an interview with Terry Francona that he was not entirely happy with his rookie outfielder. Francona is the stereotypical “players”-manager, and will likely never call a player out in public and likes to care of those kind of situations in-house, as he should. But he did express some discontent about the way that some of the players on the Sox were treating injuries, though he was explicit that he was not singling out Ellsbury. However, his comments included him saying that there “is a fine line” between players who are injured and who can play, and that “We can’t wait for guys to be 100 percent.” Perhaps the most accusatory words from Francona was when he described that minor league managers and staff are more protective of players and their injuries and when they experience pain. He went on to say that he thought Ellsbury would be able to play back on Tuesday, but when it became evident that he could not, the manager was surprised that Ellsbury did not come by on the off-day on Monday to receive treatment. Francona said that it gave his staff a chance to talk to Ellsbury about how to handle these kind of situations. But also in Francona’s words there was likely a reference to J.D. Drew, who had missed the past few games because of a quadriceps injury. Drew has been notorious about refusing to play when hurt, but Francona also went out of his way to mention that Coco Crisp had been hampered by a sore knee, although he went out and has been playing in place of Ellsbury, and that Crisp is a good example of a player who is willing to play through pain. It is likely that Ellsbury’s problem was more of a misunderstanding, but Drew’s issues come as little surprise.
Speaking of injured players, there have been several updates over the past few days. Bartolo Colon is going to pitch two innings in an extended spring training game on Monday. The Sox seem to feel that Colon, who has been traveling with the Sox, has not lost much because he would be in triple-A Pawtucket if it were not for paperwork issues. May 1 has come and gone, and Colon has not decided to leave the Sox and declare free agency, as the out clause in his contract says he can. The Sox signed Colon because they did not plan on Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz pitching as well as they have this season. As both have performed well, Colon will have to either wait for someone to get injured, or really hit a wall. Of the 309 games that Colon has pitched in the majors, 306 were starts, so he has no value as a reliever. If he continues to pitch well at Pawtucket, and no Red Sox starter needs replacement by mid-June, it is unlikely that Colon will stay at Pawtucket.
On other injured news, Brandon Moss underwent emergency surgery tonight to have his appendix removed. He will likely be out at least until the beginning of next week. Curt Schilling was also reported to be close to begin a throwing program, being able to start within the next 10 days. Even though it is true that no team can have enough starting pitching, the way that the Sox starters’ are going, there really is no room for either Schilling or Colon. It would be nice to have an option like Schilling, and Colon for that matter, if one of the starters gets hurt, but if they do not, it would be a bad descision to take out one of the young starters simply because Schilling is healthy. Schilling will not be as effective as Buchholz and Lester have been this season thus far.