Back Forces Beckett Out

Do the Red Sox have their first injury-related worry of the spring?

Ace Josh Beckett, who was scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut Saturday, was shelved with back spasms he suffered while warming up prior to the Sox' game against the Marlins.

Beckett appeared to tweak his back during his warm-up pitches. After a mound conference that included catcher Jason Varitek, manager Terry Francona and pitching coach John Farrell, Beckett walked off the field. He was replaced by Manny Delcarmen.

Beckett isn't the first Sox player to suffer an injury since the start of the Grapefruit League season—centerfielder Coco Crisp and shortstop Julio Lugo have each missed several games this week due to groin and back issues, respectively—but the club can ill afford to lose its clear number one starter for an extended period of time.

Delcarmen dazzles, Sox lose: Nostalgia apparently fits Delcarmen, who started most of his first four years in the Sox chain before he moved to the bullpen in 2005. Delcarmen tossed two perfect innings against the Marlins and whiffed one, but the Sox dropped their fourth in a row with a 5-2 loss at City of Palms Park.

Craig Hansen's slim chances of winning the lone open spot in the Sox' bullpen grew even dimmer as he gave up two runs on three hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings to take the loss. Hansen has a 14.73 ERA in three Grapefruit League appearances. The Marlins piled on in the ninth against minor leaguer Mike James, who gave up three runs on three hits and a walk in his Grapefruit League debut.

Mike Timlin, Craig Breslow and Lee Gronkiewicz were more successful out of the bullpen for the Sox. Timlin relieved Delcarmen and threw two shutout innings in which he allowed one hit. Breslow whiffed three in 1 1/3 innings while Gronkiewicz struck out one in a perfect frame.

The Sox avoided a shutout when Jacoby Ellsbury hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth. Ellsbury finished 3-for-5 and fell a triple shy of the cycle. Left fielder Chris Carter went 3-for-4, a particularly impressive feat considering he played in a simulated game at the Sox' complex earlier in the morning.

David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis each added a hit for the Sox, who stranded 20 baserunners—the third straight game they'd left at least that many on base. Five players stranded at least three runners each, led by Dustin Pedroia, Jed Lowrie and Bobby Kielty, all of whom stranded four.

Hot and cold: Ellsbury's big game snapped a 1-for-16 slump for the centerfielder. Carter had been 4-for-18 entering the game. Lowrie's 0-for-3 effort dropped his average to .150 (3-for-20) this spring. Pedroia went 0-for-4 as his average slipped to .174 (4-for-23).

Among pitchers, Delcarmen has allowed only one hit and walked none in six innings. Tim Wakefield (five innings), Breslow (3 1/3 innings) David Aardsma (three innings) have yet to allow a run in Grapefruit League action. On the other end of the spectrum, non-roster invitee Michael Tejera has allowed 10 baserunners (five hits and five walks) and recorded a 7.36 ERA in 3 2/3 innings.

Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752.

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