Beckett's next start pushed back

Updated: May 11, 2010, 11:01 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett experienced back spasms while swinging a bat before Monday night's game against the Toronto Blue Jays and will be re-evaluated Tuesday, manager Terry Francona said after Monday night's 7-6 win.

Beckett
Beckett

Beckett was part of a group of pitchers taking swings in the indoor cage just before the game, Francona said, when he felt his back "grab" on him. The pitchers have begun taking batting practice in advance of interleague play. The Red Sox are in Philadelphia to face the Phillies May 21-23, and with the games in a National League park, pitchers are obligated to bat.

The Red Sox won't know until Beckett's checked Tuesday whether he'll be able to make his scheduled turn.

The team announced earlier Monday that Beckett's next start had been pushed back from Wednesday to Friday. The back condition had nothing to do with the Red Sox's decision.

Tim Wakefield, relegated primarily to mop-up duty since being pulled from the starting rotation, will get Wednesday's start.

With the Sox having an off-day Thursday, Beckett will get an extra two days' off since his combustible start last Friday against the Yankees, in which he was charged with nine runs for only the second time in his career. Beckett, who has a 7.46 ERA so far this season, is scheduled to open a three-game series in Detroit against the Tigers.

The extra time, Francona said earlier Monday, will allow Beckett to have an extra side session while keeping Wakefield stretched out as a starter.

The purpose of the extra side session, pitching coach John Farrell said before Monday night's 7-6 win against the Blue Jays, is to give him time to work on his mechanics.

"The additional side for Josh is to reinforce, particularly out of the stretch, him getting back to the proper balance point and not getting too spread out to where he loses his balance on his fastball,'' Farrell said. "When he gets in proper position, his curveball is less readable to an opposing hitter. Part of this at times is his constant use of the slide step. That can cause some of the havoc we're trying to correct.''

The slide step is an accelerated move to the plate that helps to keep in check the opponent's running game.

The fact that Beckett's curveball is more "readable" is not the same as him tipping pitches, Farrell said.

"Hitters are getting an earlier look [at the curve],'' he said. "It's up out of his hand rather than coming out of the same window as his fastball and cutter and changeup would come out.''

This is something that has occurred periodically with Beckett, the pitching coach said.

"This is a checkpoint that is a constant with him,'' he said. "This is nothing new. He's had stretches in the past where he's had similar situations. After talking with him, reviewing video, seeing hitters' reaction, performance data that showed the same evidence, that's why we have to re-establish a good position to get into.''

Farrell said this is a different issue than what undid Beckett in the Yankees' six-run sixth inning Friday.

"An awful lot has been made of the sixth inning the other night,'' he said. "There have been times in his seven starts where he was very strong, and repeated his delivery. That was the case most of the night [Friday]. He threw a curveball that was not quite executed to [Nick] Swisher [a three-run home run in the fourth] and the mindset and mode of overthrowing caused him to lose his release point.''

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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