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No worries from Beckett

Neck spasm led to his quick hook

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By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 21, 2011

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Josh Beckett was feeling much better yesterday, less than 24 hours after he cut short his start against the Tigers because of a muscle spasm in his neck.

Because the spasm was on the right side, the Sox lifted Beckett after six innings and 83 pitches. But after receiving treatment and playing catch yesterday, Beckett didn’t seem too concerned.

“It’s stiff, but it’s feeling better,’’ he said. “It feels like it spasmed up. It’s sore, that’s about it.’’

Beckett remains scheduled to face the Indians Wednesday.

“I don’t think that was even ever a question,’’ he said.

Beckett said his neck actually felt better the harder he threw during his brief workout.

“I’m hopeful that we caught it quick enough where this isn’t going to do anything lingering or anything like that,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “It’s just kind of a stiff neck. But when it’s on the side of your pitching arm . . . I appreciated his honesty.’’

Beckett is 3-1 with a 1.73 earned run average, the lowest in the American League.

Welcome aboard Lefthander Franklin Morales, acquired from the Rockies Thursday for future considerations, checked in at Fenway Park during batting practice and was assigned No. 46.

The 25-year-old arrived having thrown only one pitch in the previous seven days.

“I’m happy to be here. I’m ready to pitch,’’ Morales said. “This is my new team. I want to do what I can do.’’

Morales allowed only 10 hits over 14 innings for the Rockies this season, but walked eight. The Sox are intrigued by his potential. Before the start of the 2008 season, Baseball America rated Morales among the top 15 prospects in the game.

“He’s got a pretty live arm. There’s a lot coming out of there,’’ Francona said. “The ability to command has been somewhat inconsistent. Hopefully we can help there.’’

As to Morales’s role, that remains to be seen. Rich Hill has been an effective lefthanded specialist, so the newcomer will probably be given low-leverage opportunities at first.

“A lot of it will depend on how he commands,’’ Francona said. “We’d like to get him here and let him get his feet under him, let him throw a little bit and get comfortable.’’

Morales feels he has improved in recent outings.

“I feel very, very good right now with my command. I try to throw my fastball for a strike,’’ he said. “I worked hard.’’

Morales relieved in the fifth inning of Game 1 of the 2007 World Series at Fenway Park. He gave up seven runs on six hits and a walk, and recorded only two outs in a game the Sox won, 13-1.

Ready to go Alfredo Aceves last started a game July 9, 2009, when he was with the Yankees. He will get another chance against the Cubs tonight.

“It’s exciting,’’ he said. “This is a good opportunity for me. I know I can do this job.’’

Aceves has made 11 relief appearances this season, the longest being 4 2/3 innings (and 67 pitches) against the Twins May 6. Francona hopes he can give the Sox 75-80 pitches tonight.

“If I throw strikes, I can go six innings, no problem,’’ Aceves said. “I feel strong.’’

Aceves was 1-0 with a 3.42 ERA in five starts for the Yankees in 2008-09.

Shot for Lackey Francona, for the first time, said John Lackey received a cortisone shot in his right elbow. That came Monday, the same day he was placed on the disabled list retroactive to May 12.

Lackey played catch for the first time since the injection yesterday and felt good, according to pitching coach Curt Young. Lackey is eligible to return May 27. The Sox believe he will be back close to that date.

Wheeler returns Righthanded reliever Dan Wheeler was activated, having missed 15 days with what the team said was a strained left calf. He pitched in three games for Triple A Pawtucket, allowing one run over 4 2/3 innings.

“It was good for me,’’ said Wheeler, who has an 11.32 ERA in 11 appearances for the Sox. “I was able to get a lot of work in and work on my location. It helped.’’

Iglesias demoted Marco Scutaro has been on the DL since May 8 with a strained rib cage muscle on his left side. He has yet to start swinging a bat and won’t be back soon. That prompted the Sox to make a roster move. Jose Iglesias, 21, was optioned back to Pawtucket, which will allow him to play every day. Iglesias had appeared in six games since being called up to replace Scutaro on the roster, but had only four plate appearances.

With Jed Lowrie starting at shortstop, Iglesias was left with pinch running and following Dustin Pedroia around like a puppy.

Drew Sutton was promoted from Pawtucket to take Iglesias’s place. Sutton was hitting .305 with five homers and 26 RBIs over 36 games, while playing second base, third base, shortstop, and left field.

Sutton, 27, had 55 games of experience in the majors with the Reds and Indians. Make it 56, as Sutton took over for Pedroia at second in the ninth.

“We might not want him out there every day. But he can go out there and play short and move around and switch-hit and kind of give you a professional at-bat in a lot of different [positions],’’ Francona said. “It’s a rare ability to have a guy who can play short and the outfield and first.’’

Outfielder Daniel Nava was designated for assignment to make room for Sutton on the 40-man roster. Nava hit .242 with 26 RBIs in 60 games for the Sox last season. Nava hit a grand slam on the first pitch he saw last June 12. Nava was hitting .192 with a .582 OPS at Pawtucket.

Millwood on board Righthander Kevin Millwood, who was signed to a minor league contract Thursday, was assigned to extended spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. He is expected to pitch a few games there before joining the Pawtucket rotation . . . At the request of agent Scott Boras, the MRI on Daisuke Matsuzaka’s right elbow will be reviewed by Angels team doctor Lewis Yocum . . . Junichi Tazawa, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, pitched four innings in his first rehab start for Single A Salem. He allowed four runs on five hits with two strikeouts and two walks . . . The Sox and Cubs will be wearing 1918 throwback uniforms tonight. “It’s not good,’’ Francona said of all-white uniforms and plain white hats. “I’ve only put on the hat so far. The description I would say, not the uniform, but me, I’m a little Max Patkin-ish. It’s not good.’’ The late Patkin was the “Clown Prince of Baseball,’’ known for entertaining at minor league games.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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