- Gordon Edes, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- Josh Beckett, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, said Thursday afternoon that he has been told by the Boston Red Sox's medical staff that the lower back strain he's dealing with now is not the same as the one that sidelined him in 2008.
"It's kind of in the same spot, but they're telling me it's something that's totally different," Beckett said. "I can't start worrying about that right now. It's still a little bit early for me to think about further down the road than just trying to get through today, come in tomorrow, we go to Philadelphia, feel better than today. That's the goal."
In 2008, Beckett made just 27 starts, his fewest in four seasons with the Red Sox. He began the season on the disabled list, missing the team's first six games, including a trip to Japan, skipped another start in April, went on the DL in late August with an inflamed elbow and gutted his way through the postseason despite a strained oblique muscle.
He finished the season with a 12-10 record and 4.03 ERA after winning 20 games and delivering a virtuoso postseason performance in 2007.
This season, Beckett is 1-1 with a 7.29 ERA in eight starts. After getting lit up by the Yankees on May 7 in Boston in a game in which he had terrific stuff but imploded in a six-run sixth inning, the Red Sox had him skip a start because of the back, which he says he hurt while swinging a bat to prepare for interleague play (pitchers hit).
But Beckett's performance this season at least causes one to wonder if the back has been bothering him longer. After 10 days off, the Sox sent him out Monday in the rain in New York. Manager Terry Francona had casually dismissed a question about sending Beckett out on a wet field ("He won't be pitching from the warning track," Francona cracked), but in the fifth inning Beckett said he slipped on the mound while throwing a pitch to Alex Rodriguez.
Asked if he'd worried about the conditions, which he acknowledged were "less than favorable," Beckett said, "I'm good on days that I pitch of convincing myself that nothing's wrong, and literally I told John Farrell this, I didn't think about it one time until I slipped. My back was fine. It wasn't bothering me. It wasn't tightening up. It wasn't getting fatigued or anything. Just one pitch."
How worried should the Red Sox be? Consider what Farrell said this spring about how Beckett's back injury impacted him in 2008.
"When he jarred his back on the mound in spring training before we went to Japan in '08, he was seemingly playing catch-up the entire year," Farrell said. "He had some discomfort in his elbow, some discomfort in the rib cage. That was a year he seemingly never got on track, never was able to harness his power and continue to build it and ride it through the course of the season."
Beckett said that while he expects to come off the DL when the 15-day period is up on June 3, it's too soon to say when he'll be allowed to pick up a ball. Right now he is being treated with electrical stimulation, heat and ice, he said.
"It's frustrating," Beckett said. "It's just frustrating to play in those conditions, especially when you've got something like a back injury and one pitch basically costs you two starts."
Of the pitch in question, Beckett said, "my actual landing leg just never grabbed. Their guys had to deal with it too. Obviously, we ended up winning the game, so the outcome is good, but whenever you deal with a back injury or something like that, that costs you two more starts, it's frustrating.
"When your back's not 100 percent and something like that happens, you put yourself in a lot of danger."
Beckett said he was uncomfortable while standing. "Whenever I get into a torquing motion, it's a little more uncomfortable than standing there," he said. "It's kind of like having a crick in your neck. It can be miserable."
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.