|After a few rocky outings, Josh Beckett was in command last night in Houston, giving up one hit in five innings. (Pat Sullivan/Associated Press)|
Beckett is zeroed in during final tuneup
HOUSTON — After absorbing the loss in each of his three previous outings, Josh Beckett made his sixth and last appearance of the spring count.
With the Red Sox set to begin the regular season tomorrow against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Beckett looked in midseason form last night, posting his only win of the spring (1-4, 5.33 ERA). He threw five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit while striking out three in a 10-0 exhibition win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park before 25,755.
“You talk all spring training about how numbers don’t mean anything — and they don’t,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “But when he comes out tonight in the stadium, and his fastball has that kind of life, boy, that’s fun to watch. He really looked sharp.’’
Beckett hit the second batter he faced, Angel Sanchez, but retired the next 11 before allowing his only hit on a seeing-eye single by Brett Wallace to lead off the fifth. Beckett then induced old friend Bill Hall to hit a warning-track fly to center and got a defensive gem from first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who snatched a line drive by Joe Inglett and doubled up Wallace at first.
Beckett gave up seven runs on 11 hits in six innings in an 11-8 loss to the Jays last Friday.
“I feel like the mechanical adjustments I made have really gone a long way,’’ Beckett said. “I felt really good, mechanically, in my last start. I felt just as good my last start as I did this start even though the results weren’t the same.’’
Lefthander Dennys Reyes came on in the sixth for Beckett, who threw 61 pitches, 39 strikes.
“The changeup was really good for me tonight,’’ Beckett said. “A lot of it is about feel and I think it’s that way for everybody more times than not. A lot of times you’re playing in different situations, wind-wise. Maybe a guy didn’t actually hit the ball as well as he thought he did. The ballparks are a little smaller in spring training, so there’s a lot of things that come into play with that. But feel counts for a lot.’’
Beckett had to feel good about how he finished the spring.
“It’s definitely nice to have some confidence going into your next start,’’ said Beckett, who will take his first turn of the regular season at Cleveland Tuesday. “There’s definitely mechanical things that we worked on at the beginning of the spring that are starting to come together at a good time.’’
Line them up Francona said he will wait until today to reveal his Opening Day lineup, though the one he put together last night “is the lineup I’m kind of comfortable with.’’ . . . Francona said Daisuke Matsuzaka will throw a simulated game in today’s workout at Minute Maid Park. “We’ll get him up and down about four times,’’ said the manager. Matsuzaka will face live hitters in Nate Spears, Drew Sutton, and Dan Butler, who delivered the crowning blow last night by hitting a two-run homer over the railroad tracks in left field in the ninth. It was Butler’s first homer of the spring and it came in front of family and friends who traveled from Phoenix. “If you guys could see the dugout when Butler came in,’’ Francona said. “You got a bunch of major league players mob him. Everyone knew his family was there. For me, that was probably the topper of the night.’’ . . . Bobby Jenks was expected to get some bullpen work last night, but Francona said the big righthander had a tooth pulled Tuesday back in Fort Myers. “We’ll see how he’s doing,’’ Francona said. “If you don’t see him pitch, that’s why. Nothing arm-related.’’
A hot spell The Astros installed a six-story, $13 million high-definition videoboard in center field during the offseason. When Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was announced in pregame introductions, his name was misspelled “Alamacchia’’ on the board. Saltamacchia went 3 for 4 with 2 RBIs and a run. He wound up the spring with a team-leading .405 average . . . First base coach Ron Johnson got to see his 26-year-old son, Chris Johnson, play third base for the Astros . . . Houston manager Brad Mills, who spent six seasons with the Sox (2004-09) as Francona’s bench coach and four as his first base coach with the Phillies (1997-2000), also got reacquainted with the Sox . . . A few Sox donned new numbers: No. 10 Marco Scutaro (formerly No. 16), No. 59 Reyes (formerly 44), and No. 35 Dan Wheeler (formerly 36). Meanwhile, bench coach DeMarlo Hale switched to No. 22 (from 35) and third base coach Tim Bogar switched to No. 17 (from 10) to accommodate Wheeler and Scutaro.
Catcher’s fit Francona on the acquisition of catcher Mark McKenry, 26, who spent 2010 with the Rockies’ Triple A club in Colorado Springs and made his major league debut last September: “It’s a good fit. He’s probably at a point where if we need somebody now, he can come up and handle catching a major league game.’’ . . . Righthander Alfredo Aceves, who was optioned to Pawtucket, threw five scoreless innings in a 6-1 victory over Norfolk.
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.