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RED SOX NOTEBOOK

They may have put their finger on the problem

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There are progressions that must continue in Josh Beckett's game.

Last season, he went over the 200-inning hump for the first time. He faced American League hitters for the first time and realized how much tougher the lineups with a DH can be.

It was also a season in which he avoided the blister problems that caused him to miss time in previous seasons with the Florida Marlins.

And that remains an issue for Beckett, who revealed yesterday -- after pitching three scoreless innings in a 2-1 loss to the Dodgers -- that the Red Sox medical staff has found that the blisters tended to crop up at times when he had outbreaks of eczema.

"It's something I still have to be careful with," said Beckett, who uses a product called CoQ10 to treat his eczema. "We've done a lot of testing and stuff like that, and the conclusion we've come up with since I've been with the Boston Red Sox is whenever I have eczema outbreaks, that's usually when my finger gets sore.

"Last year, we were able to keep that stuff under wraps, and hopefully we can do the same this year."

Beckett was pleased with parts of his game, most notably using a curveball to get outs. Remember it was his stubbornness in not throwing offspeed pitches that got him in trouble last season, when he gave up 36 home runs.

"I have things to iron out, but I threw some curveballs for strikes, threw a few changeups," said Beckett. "I had a productive day.

"It's early in spring training and I felt strong, and you almost have to hold yourself back a little bit. Today I was trying to throw the ball too hard and too early. I threw some really good [curveballs] in that last inning that looked totally different to me and my pitching coach."

Liked by Mike
Former Red Sox pitcher Mike Brown attended yesterday's game as a scout for the Diamondbacks. Brown was Hideki Okajima's pitching coach for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters last season and watched him throw a strong inning in yesterday's loss to the Dodgers. "He looks the same," said Brown. "He's got that high arm slot, and sometimes that makes you more susceptible to being wild, but he's able to control his fastball and curveball very well. I'll tell you, he's a terrific guy and he's someone who will give you 100 percent of his 100 percent." Brown said he helped Okajima develop a slide-step to use with runners on so he's quicker to the plate; it's not used very often in Japan. Okajima feels the reduced workload in spring training as compared with Japan should benefit him . . . Craig Hansen, who has been sidelined with a back problem, is scheduled to face hitters this morning on the back field at City of Palms Park. Meanwhile, Mike Timlin, who has missed time with a strained oblique, threw 20-25 pitches on the side yesterday.

The ex-factor
A Who's Who of former Red Sox paraded through City of Palms Park: Nomar Garciaparra, Grady Little, Mike Easler, Bill Mueller, Rudy Seanez, Ken Huckaby, Matt White, Dave Jauss, and others. Easler is a Triple A hitting coach for the Dodgers, while Mueller is a special assistant to general manager Ned Colletti. White, a native of Windsor, Mass., just discovered that land he purchased in Cummington, Mass., includes a large amount of valuable stone used in landscaping that could be worth $2 billion. White pitched two scoreless innings against the Sox . . . Sox first base prospect Luis Jimenez knocked in their only run with a double to right field in the eighth . . . The Sox and Twins played to a 0-0 tie in a "B" game in the morning. The Sox couldn't bat in the eighth or ninth innings because the Twins ran out of pitchers. Rule 5 draftee Nick Debarr pitched the sixth, was replaced by Kyle Jackson in the seventh, then came back to pitch the eighth and ninth. You can only do that in a "B" game.

Networking
Keith Olbermann was a guest of Terry Francona in the Sox dugout during yesterday's game. The host of MSNBC's "Countdown" and Francona's cousin Rick Francona, a military analyst for MSNBC, are friends . . . Garciaparra hugged Carl Yastrzemski, who was on hand for yesterday's game. "It's great to see everybody," Garciaparra said. "There are a lot of memories here for me." . . . The Japanese media are gearing up for Daisuke Matsuzaka's start against the Marlins today in Jupiter. Sox PR man John Blake sent the Marlins a list of 94 media members for the game.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com.

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