Commentary

Josh Beckett's confidence stays high

Updated: February 28, 2011, 8:02 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Josh Beckett redirects a question about himself to focus on the Boston Red Sox as a team, it means he's focused.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona called Beckett "determined" to bounce back from a horrible 2010 season in which he posted a 6-6 record along with a 5.78 ERA while being limited to 21 starts because of injury.

He's been asked time and again this spring how he plans to rebound and what his success will mean for the team.

[+] EnlargeJosh Beckett
AP Photo/Dave MartinJosh Beckett is confident that as long as he stays healthy good results will follow.

"I think we have a really good team and we have a chance to do something really special," Beckett said. "There's something I've wanted to do my entire career and never been able to, which is be on a team that wins 100 games. I've come close a couple of times, but this is the first real legit chance I think we have to do that."

While that's a bold statement, it's also a telltale sign that Beckett is raring to go.

"I think if I'm healthy the numbers will be there," he said.

The 30-year-old right-hander made his spring debut Sunday night against the Minnesota Twins, working two innings (23 pitches, 15 of them strikes) and allowing one run on two hits (a double and a triple). He said after Boston's 8-4 loss that he felt like he was rushing a little bit, but was able to take a few positives out of his brief outing.

He said he's learned, especially during 2008, that if you suffer a setback during spring training, it could have a lasting effect on the regular season. In '08, Beckett suffered a back injury and missed the start of the season.

"It's very difficult because you're constantly trying to catch up," he said. "I had to make a start in Bradenton last year that I probably shouldn't have done, but I had to do it because you're getting into that time of spring training where I couldn't miss any more time."

Beckett indicated that there's no specific moment during spring training when he flips the switch into regular-season mode. He's already preparing for it.

"I'm competing right now," he said. "It's very difficult for me to go out there and pitch against the Minnesota Twins. I know they're missing a couple of guys in the middle, but it's still a very good lineup. It's hard for me to go out there and say, 'Oh, this is my first start of spring training.' I'm trying to get every one of those guys out. It doesn't always work, but that's what I'm trying to do."

The Red Sox have a chance to have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, and it starts with Beckett.

"He's our workhorse, " said fellow starter Clay Buchholz, who worked two perfect innings with one strikeout Sunday night. "He's the guy we're all going to feed off."

When Francona held his annual spring training meeting with pitchers and position players, Beckett was, as Francona put it, determined.

"He's focusing on a lot of things he knows he needs to," Francona said. "He's doing some of it on his own, some of it with [pitching coach] Curt [Young], but he's pretty diligent about it, so that's good.

"There were times last year where he wouldn't had taken the ball, but he did and it snowballed and he couldn't turn it around," Francona said. "At the same time, when you're in the clubhouse with him you respect that even though it was really tough because you know he's out there trying."

While Beckett was OK in his spring debut, Buchholz was strong.

"Buck was great," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "He was throwing on a downward angle from the beginning. He kept the ball down and mixed his pitches up. He was lights out. He was good."

Besides his cutter, Buchholz was able to work his other pitches into his repertoire and he certainly didn't pitch like it was his first outing of the spring.

"I felt good the first time out," Buchholz said. "I'm on the right road so far."

For the first time in his professional career, Buchholz knows exactly what his role will be this season as a permanent member of the starting rotation.

"It feels good," he said. "I'm not going to say spring training is stress-free, because there are always things you can get better on, and sometimes you don't do them as good as you think you are. Going in, having a little bit of confidence, and knowing the team has a little bit of confidence in me, it's definitely a different feeling this spring."

Different feelings are something Beckett can relate to.

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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