Beckett Backed Up

Remember the optimism that floated out of Red Sox camp Sunday regarding Josh Beckett and his sore back? Scratch that—and, perhaps, scratch Beckett from his Opening Day start two weeks from Tuesday.

A grumpy Beckett met with reporters in Ft. Myers Monday, two days after he walked off the mound at City of Palms Park after he tweaked his back warming up for his start against the Marlins, and said his back felt worse than it did Sunday.

"Today wasn't as good as yesterday," said Beckett, who said he had a hard time sleeping Sunday night. "We'll just have to wait and see, I guess. Doctors told me yesterday that there was a possibility I'd come in and feel like I do today. So as far as that goes, the doctors were right."

Beckett underwent an MRI Sunday and it's believed thus far his ailment is muscle-related. "We've done a number of tests—there's nothing wrong with the disks, and I think that's what they wanted to make sure of," said Beckett, who said he's never had back problems before. "It's definitely a strained muscle or pulled muscle, whatever you want to call it. It heals when it heals."

If it doesn't heal in a hurry, Beckett almost certainly won't accompany the Sox to Japan for their season-opening two-game series against the Athletics. Beckett has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game, yet if his injury lingers much longer, he'll be limited to no more than one start before the Sox depart for Japan Mar. 19.

"If I'd had as much progress from [Sunday] to [Monday] as I did from the first day to the second day, I wouldn't have ruled that out," Beckett said.

Now, Beckett can't even take a guess as to when he'll throw again. "We're going to make sure it's completely pain-free," Beckett said. "I can't even really [lay] in one position too long, or [sit] in one position too long. [If he's] standing in one position too long, it kind of goes backwards. I've got to keep moving and stuff like that."

Being stuck in neutral, at least from a pitching perspective, is clearly annoying Beckett, who emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball during a 20-win season last year and was primed for his first season atop the Sox rotation. "It probably would have been better to talk to you guys yesterday because I was a little more optimistic," Beckett said. "I'm in a pretty crappy mood as far as this thing goes because it was a pretty frustrating day. Yesterday was good and today's kind of horse[bleep]."

Terry Francona didn't rule out the possibility Beckett could still make his Opening Day start, but he hinted he expected another pitcher to take the ball against the Athletics. "We usually err on the side of caution," Francona told reporters. "We usually try to use good judgment. We're going to do what's in the best interest of our ballclub, short-term and long-term. We always do. I can't imagine a 17-horu flight would be good for anybody.

"But that's just the way it is. So you deal with it, and we'll be all right."


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

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