Beckett leaves spring start after experiencing back spasms

Updated: March 9, 2008, 8:10 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Josh Beckett's back pain began when he landed on a soft spot after his first warmup pitch. He threw five more, then walked off the field before the game even started.

Beckett
Beckett

"We'll just have to wait and see how it feels tomorrow" was Beckett's only comment three hours after he felt back spasms and called catcher Jason Varitek to the mound following his sixth warmup pitch.

On Sunday, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that Beckett's injury was muscular in nature and the team is optimistic about his recovery.

"I think we're all surprised he was moving around the way he was," Francona said, according to The Boston Globe. "I think he even was."

A split-squad of Florida Marlins, with starter Gaby Hernandez pitching three shutout innings, beat Boston 5-2 Saturday, but the loss might have been worse if Beckett had pitched with the pain and aggravated the injury in a meaningless spring-training game.

"I think everybody holds their collective breath hoping that the severity of this is manageable," pitching coach John Farrell said Saturday. "Obviously, missing a start today is short term. But, again, it's too early to speculate when he'd be on the mound next."

Before the injury, Beckett likely would have made two more starts in Florida before opening the regular season against Oakland on March 25 in Tokyo. He still might do that.

The Red Sox already are without Curt Schilling, who is expected to miss at least half the season while he rehabilitates his injured right shoulder.

Beckett's lower back had been sore during the past week, something that's not unusual for players in spring training, Francona said, and he seemed fine when he warmed up in the bullpen before taking the mound for the game.

That mound already had been used Saturday morning for a four-inning camp game involving Red Sox players that was held to give four pitchers some work. All four were optioned to the minors or sent to the team's minor league camp after that game.

It ended about two hours before Beckett took the mound, and Farrell wondered if there was enough time for groundskeepers to prepare it properly.

"Unfortunately, his landing area kind of gave way and that's what caused him to slip," Farrell said. "He felt his left foot slide as he was releasing the [first] pitch and, as a result, [his] low back absorbed the stress."

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia noticed something was wrong right away as Beckett, last year's AL Cy Young Award runner-up, was preparing to face Hanley Ramirez. The shortstop was part of a seven-player trade that brought Beckett to the Red Sox in November 2005.

"He was just moving around like he was stiff or something," Pedroia said. "What he did for us last year and what he's capable of doing, obviously you don't want anybody to get hurt in these games, especially when it's our ace. So, hopefully, it's nothing big."

Manny Delcarmen replaced Beckett and pitched two perfect innings. The game was scoreless through four as Boston managed just two hits off Hernandez, a long shot to make Florida's rotation.

"Just going out there pitching well is raising my confidence," Hernandez said. "I'm just trying to get outs and get as many clean innings as I can. If they send me down, they send me down."

Florida scored twice in the fifth off Craig Hansen. The Marlins added three runs in the ninth on a solo homer by Jorge Piedra and a two-run shot by Gaby Sanchez.

Jacoby Ellsbury hit a two-run homer for Boston in the ninth.

Beckett had been healthy for almost all of his two seasons with the Red Sox. He made 33 starts in 2006 when he went 16-11 with a 5.01 ERA.

He started 30 games last year, going 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA. He went on the disabled list and missed two starts in May after tearing skin on his right middle finger. He won his first seven starts and was 9-0 before losing to Colorado on June 14.

In the opener of the Red Sox sweep of the Rockies in the World Series, Beckett allowed one run and six hits in seven innings of Boston's 13-1 victory.

Beckett was scheduled to make his first spring-training start against a regular major league lineup Saturday. His first two games were against Boston College and a Minnesota Twins "B" squad.

In the 24-0 win over BC, Beckett struck out four in two perfect innings. Four days later, he allowed one unearned run, two hits and a walk and struck out five in three innings against the Twins.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.