FORT MYERS, Fla. -- To nobody's surprise, manager Terry Francona confirmed today that Josh Beckett will not make the trip to Japan, but remain in Fort Myers to continue to recover from a sore back and work his back to the mound.
"It's not the right thing to do [to send him]," Francona said. "Everything we say, we need to live by.''
Francona wasn't willing yet to reveal the pitching rotation for Japan.
Sox pitching coach John Farrell played catch with Beckett this morning and indicated that Beckett is progressing well and threw without pain.
"Good news was there were no restrictions as far as the back is concerned," Farrell said this morning at City of Palms Park. Farrell said Beckett performed without a glitch with 25 throws at 60 feet and 10 throws at 75 feet.
"The main thing is there was no discomfort and no restrictions," Farrell said. "His arm action and follow through, at least on flat ground was normal. Tomorrow he'll go back to 90 feet. Then on Tuesday we would look to get back his normal long-toss activity, pre-bullpen and finish up with some flat ground work before we go to the mound which would be on Thursday. That's a tentative plan right now. Any time frame for games is probably a little too early to tell."
The Globe's Jackie MacMullan reported from Bradenton, where the Sox take on the Pirates this afternoon, that Francona was "Very pleased" with Beckett's session.
"He tolerated everything he was supposed to," Francona said. "John [Farrell] was real excited. The ball came out of [Beckett's] hand real nice. ''
Beyond Japan, Farrell thought the possibility of Beckett starting one of the two regular season games in Oakland on April 1 or 2 would also be "too aggressive. The one thing about Josh, he's very much in tuned with his body. As good as he felt he knows there are steps along the way which will we will look to accomplish. The main thing is even at 75 feet, he got on it a little bit as far as intensity level. I'm sure he wants to go, but he's well aware there will be a throwing program and a plan in place. The fact he feels nothing in there is a clear indication the inflammation has subsided. Now we'll take the appropriate steps to build him up." Farrell said Beckett would start out with two innings and advance in one-inning progressions.
Looking ahead, Farrell said it was premature to decide whether Beckett would pitch in the exhibitions in Los Angeles at the end of the month.
"We'll look to use those games in LA to the best of our abilities. Until we get a more clear game schedule, its premature as to whether he would be out in LA at this point. We're not going to skip steps to get him to five innings, when he needs a minor league rehab. Those are all questions that we've raised," Farrell said.
Asked about a target date for Beckett's return, Francona said, "He'll be ready when he's ready.''
Beckett would not comment.