Red Sox Notebook: Beckett Progressing

The Red Sox' minor league complex once again featured a big league attraction Friday, when ace Josh Beckett continued his recovery from a back injury by throwing 45 pitches in the bullpen.

It was the second bullpen session in three days for Beckett, who also threw 45 pitches Wednesday. After his workout Friday, Beckett told The Providence Journal he has been encouraged by his ability to handle more work this week than last week.

"There are still some peaks and valleys," Beckett told the newspaper. "That first week I felt better every other day, and then every other day I felt worse. Now I'm at a point where I can do everything I need to do in between starts or bullpens. I've progressed, but it's only been in the last week where I can start to put a timetable when I can get back on the mound."

Beckett, who hurt himself warming up for a start against the Marlins Mar. 8, is scheduled to take the mound in a minor league game at the Sox' complex Sunday. It still looks likely he will open the season on the disabled list. The Sox don't need a fifth starter until they face the Indians in Cleveland Apr. 15.

Several big-name Sox players have appeared on the back fields this week. Jon Lester started an intrasquad game Thursday in his final tune-up before he starts against the Athletics Wednesday in Tokyo. Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Sox' Opening Day pitcher, threw to Jason Varitek Wednesday after it appeared the Sox might boycott their Florida finale against the Blue Jays due to a dispute over whether or not coaches would be paid a stipend for the Japan trip.

And on Tuesday, the trio of Coco Crisp, Bobby Kielty and Julio Lugo—all of whom missed considerable time during the Grapefruit League season—all played in an intrasquad game in order to remain sharp before the Sox headed for Japan.

Timlin injured: Mike Timlin probably isn't headed for a second straight season-opening trip to the disabled list, but he may not pitch in the Sox' games against the Athletics due to a small cut on his right ring finger.

"His availability is certainly in question," Terry Francona told reporters in Japan.

Timlin suffered the injury trying to field a grounder during a minor league game Wednesday. The cut required two stitches.

"The ball hit me off the end of the finger," Timlin told reporters. "I tried to get my hand out of the way, actually. I wasn't trying to reach and catch the ball."

Timlin sounded a bit more optimistic than his manager regarding his chances to make the Sox' 25-man roster for the first two regular season contests. "I don't know yet," Timlin told reporters. "We have to check it out. I can play catch."

Buchholz to start exhibition: The Sox play the Hanshin Tigers in the first of their two exhibition games in Japan at noon Saturday (11 p.m. Friday night in Boston). Clay Buchholz is scheduled to take the mound. The Boston Globe reported Friday Francona expects Buchholz to throw five 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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