- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Maybe, Josh Beckett suggested Tuesday, we have it all wrong, that the Red Sox rotation is nowhere near as important as we think it is, especially with the upgrades the Red Sox have made to their bullpen.
"I think [Jason] Varitek said it best the other day at breakfast," Beckett said. "All we are [is] setup guys now. All the starters are just setup guys."
Beckett was joking, of course, a mode that he does not show frequently in his interaction with the media. Perhaps it is a measure of how good he feels relative to last season, when he won just 6 games, matching a career low, while posting a career-worst 5.78 ERA, that a relaxed Beckett went for another laugh when asked how the first day of official workouts went Tuesday.
"Great," he said, "except Tito [Francona] thought it was Day 13 with the rag balls. He hit me right in the face. I hope somebody got that on video, because he's going to hear from my lawyer."
There was nothing funny about Beckett's performance last season, which he readily acknowledges, though he is adamant about not dwelling on it.
"I can't change last year. I just have to do the best I can this year," he said. "My dad said, 'Throw the rearview mirror away, because you can't change anything that's already happened.' As frustrating as 2010 was, I've got to focus on 2011."
Beckett is now four years removed from the signature season of his career, 2007, when he bounced back from a disappointing debut season with the Red Sox to win 20 games with a 3.27 ERA, while winning all four of his postseason decisions to lead the Red Sox to the World Series.
Asked if it was within reason for him to have a similar season, he acted surprised by the question.
"Physically, yeah," he said. "Why not? I'm only 30. Thirty is the new 20, isn't it? Somebody told me that."
Achieving that goal will depend in great measure being a lot healthier than he was last season, when the flu dropped him in spring training, followed by back issues that sent him to the disabled list for 56 games.
Asked whether there was a time he was ever fully healthy last season, he said: "I definitely had stints where I felt good enough to compete better than I did. It was a struggle some other times, but things still could have been better than they were."
Strengthening his back was a main component of his off-season workouts, he said.
"We did some core stability stuff, strengthen up the back a little bit," he said. "Mostly focused on core stability. [The back] feels good."
Beckett was forever trying to play catchup last season, and admitted that manager Terry Francona had a point when he said the acknowledged leader of the rotation tried too hard at times.
"He's not talking about effort levels," Beckett said. "He's talking about trying to make up two bad starts in one pitch and that aspect we're all probably guilty of that from time to time, trying to do too much right now."
He also was guilty, he said, of relying too much on a cutter, although he insisted that he was not influenced by the great success that Jon Lester had with the pitch. It was more a case of other pitches -- presumably his curve and changeup -- not being effective during given starts.
"I ended up overusing it," he said. "I definitely think there were times I fell in love with it and tried to use it in situations it probably was not the wisest thing to do."
One of the biggest changes facing Beckett this season is the absence of pitching coach John Farrell, who moved on to become manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.
"Johnny and I had a really close relationship," he said. "I'm happy. I knew about that deal. I think he called all of us to tell us what was going down before it went down. He's going to be missed. He's in a better spot. He's moving up the ladder like he wanted to. That was something we all knew he wanted to do.
"He's going to be missed, but I'm looking forward to working with Curt [Young], though. Curt already has brought a lot of things to my attention, things he's seen. I think we're going be talking a lot in the next few weeks."
During his side session Tuesday, Beckett threw to veteran Varitek, while Jarrod Saltalamacchia caught Lester. Beckett said that he looks forward to working with the new catcher.
"I think I know him as a person," he said. "I'm definitely looking forward to throwing to him. He's got the best catching instructor in the world [Gary Tuck] working with him. It's funny. He does things like 'Tek now, a lot of things. There's not a lot of better guys to follow in that position."
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.