Beckett Officially Scratched From Japan

The Red Sox confirmed the obvious Sunday, when they announced that Josh Beckett would not pitch against the Athletics in Japan March 25-26. And judging by the cautious comments of Sox pitching coach John Farrell, Beckett won't be ready to go when the Sox return to the mainland for another pair of games against the Athletics Apr. 1-2.

"I think that's probably a little bit too aggressive at this point, because there's going to be a one-inning progression, much like everyone else goes through spring training," Farrell told reporters in Ft. Myers. "Provided there are no additional setbacks, the first game—when that date is determined—would probably be two innings."

Beckett threw Sunday for the first time since he suffered back spasms while warming up for a start against the Marlins Mar. 8. He threw to Farrell and made 35 throws—25 from 60 feet and 10 from 75 feet. Farrell was encouraged by how Beckett looked and felt but said it's too early to tell when he'll appear in an actual game.

"The main thing is there was no discomfort and no restrictions," Farrell said. "His arm action and follow through, at least on flat ground, was normal. [Monday] he'll go back to 90 feet. Then on Tuesday, we would look to get back his normal long-toss activity, pre-bullpen and finish up with some flat ground work before we go to the mound, which would be on Thursday.

"That's a tentative plan right now. Any time frame for games is probably a little too early to tell."

That time frame would seem to include a season-opening assignment to the disabled list for Beckett. With the Sox heading to Japan Wednesday, the earliest Beckett could pitch in an exhibition game would be Mar. 28, when the Sox play the Dodgers in the opener of a three-game series in California. Farrell said Beckett would add an inning each time out, so presuming he pitches two innings Mar. 28, he would need at least two more starts before he'd be ready to go five innings.

Fortunately for the Sox, early off-days in the schedule mean they won't need a fifth starter until Apr. 15 at Cleveland. Triple-A Pawtucket opens its season Apr. 3 and a pair of starts for the PawSox would position Beckett to debut for the Sox on tax day with six days rest.


Wakefield perfect: Josh Bard's bugaboo during his star-crossed month as Tim Wakefield's personal catcher in 2006 was the passed ball. But the passed ball won't be a concern if Wakefield pitches as he did Sunday.

Of course, it was only a minor league game against the Pirates, but the Sox still had to be encouraged to see Wakefield throw five perfect innings in his first start with Kevin Cash behind the plate instead of Doug Mirabelli, who was released Thursday.

"I didn't even think about that," Wakefield told reporters. "I had no apprehension about throwing to Cash. I've thrown to him before. I've thrown to him on the side and he's always done a good job."

Cash caught 14 straight scoreless innings by Wakefield when Mirabelli was on the disabled list last August.


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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