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Beckett provides stabilizing force for Red Sox

5/9/2006

BECKETT THE REAL DEAL

By Rick Sutcliffe, ESPN

I've gotten to know Josh Beckett the last few years. He's a little different in that he's not going to get caught up in all the hype -- good or bad -- that's said about him.

Getting Beckett was a huge move by the Red Sox, because they now have two pitchers on their staff who are throwing the ball really well. (Both Beckett in 2003 and Curt Schilling in 2001 won World Series MVP awards while facing the Yankees.)

Josh Beckett I remember Padres manager Bruce Bochy telling me something a long time ago, and it's so true as it pertains to Beckett: When you have a player with a track record of succeeding, you don't worry about him. That sums up Beckett. He's only 25 years old, but when you need to win a ball game, he's a pretty good pitcher to hand the ball to.

(Remember, in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series, Beckett went on three days' rest. The numbers historically don't favor a pitcher on three days' rest. I covered that game for MLB International, and we all wondered how well Beckett was going to pitch. Turns out, he could have pitched 15 innings that night, and the Yankees weren't going to score. He was that dominant.)

The one thing that will be different for Beckett when he starts for the Red Sox on Tuesday against Randy Johnson and the Yankees is that he'll be facing the best lineup -- on paper -- I have ever seen. I got to the big leagues in 1976 and faced the Big Red Machine, and I've faced the Yankees in the past. I've faced great lineups, but on paper, there has never been one like what New York has right now.

Last year, the Red Sox and Yankees finished with the same record (95-67), but the Yankees won 10 of the 19 games against Boston and that was the reason they won the AL East -- and Johnson was responsible for half of those wins (5-0 with a 3.63 ERA in six starts vs. the Red Sox).

I truly laugh when people talk about what a bad year he had in 2005 when he was 17-8 and 5-0 against the Red Sox. How is that an off year?

Tuesday's game is important, because one game can mean a lot, just like it did last year.

BASEBALL TONIGHT EXTRA

By Mark Simon, ESPN Research

The Angels are struggling mightily, and their problems were apparent against one of the best pitchers in the American League, Roy Halladay, on Monday night. It took Halladay just under two hours to complete a victory against the Angels.

The issue for the Angels is that their lineup, after Vladimir Guerrero in the cleanup spot, just isn't producing.

There's no intimidation factor with the likes of Juan Rivera or Casey Kotchman because those hitters just aren't delivering. That's opened the door for a major power struggle in the AL West.

ELIAS SAYS

• Rangers rookie John Koronka pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowed three runs and earned the win in Texas' 6-4 victory against Minnesota.

Over the past two seasons, rookie starting pitchers are 10-4 with a 3.11 ERA against the Twins. That's the highest winning percentage and lowest ERA for rookie starters against any American League team over that period.

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METS HOT ON ZITO'S TRAIL?

By Buster Olney, ESPN The Magazine | Olney Archive

The Mets will occupy a strange place in the trade market. They don't have many quality Grade B to B-plus prospects that interest other teams, so when and if the Kyle Lohses and Gil Meches and Scott Elartons hit the market, the Mets will be at a competitive disadvantage in making deals. There is no way you would trade stud outfield prospect Lastings Milledge for any of those second-line pitchers, of course, but the Mets would probably lose out to other teams in the talent auction for those guys.

Barry Zito But if Barry Zito is made available, the Mets would be the front-runners because they have Milledge. And three talent evaluators said over the weekend that Oakland GM Billy Beane loves the outfielder above all other prospects. "He'd make the deal [something built around Zito for Milledge] right now," says one scout.

Milledge hits for power, he has plate discipline, he runs; he's the whole package. Beane could plug him into the outfield and could have a star by Milledge's third year of service, maybe sooner, considering the player's terrific plate discipline. And Beane has a pitcher, Rich Harden, who can take over as Oakland ace.

From the Mets' perspective, there are compelling reasons to consider a trade for Zito.

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