Extra Bases

Beckett looks ready; lefties not so much

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If there is one thing you should care about from tonight’s game against the Rays, it’s this: Josh Beckett threw 94 pitches over six innings and feels strong as he starts preparations for Opening Night against the Yankees.

Beckett has fanned 17 over his last 11 innings and as Terry Francona just said, “I think his stuff is real good right now.”

Beckett has had an excellent feel for his changeup his last two times on the mound and that’s a devastating pitch when you have the kind of four-seam fastball he has.

As to his contract, Beckett again refused comment. “I don’t have anything right now,” he said. Right now could be the key words there as the sides are still talking.

The battle for the final two bullpen spots was a stalemate tonight as Scott Schoeneweis and Alan Embree looked equally bad.

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Schoeneweis followed Beckett to the mound and fanned Hank Blalock and Sean Rodriguez. But Nevin Ashley singled and stole second. Jason Bartlett followed with an RBI single. Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria then walked.

Joe Nelson came in and walked in a run.

“Schoeneweis, I thought he was a little too amped up,” Francona said. “He’s had a week off. Ball was moving all over the place but not necessarily in the strike zone.”

Embree started the eighth and allowed four runs (three earned) on two hits and two walks. He got only one out.

“Alan just didn’t command very well,” Francona said. “From the very first pitch he was kind of up, down. We’ve got things to work on.”

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Embree was still in the clubhouse when we got there and admitted it was a rough one. “It’s frustrating,” he said. “I expected better results and it didn’t happen.”

Two outings for Embree: 1.1 innings, 4 hits, 6 earned runs, 3 walks, 0 strike outs.

Both of the lefties will pitch again Wednesday.

If you had to pick the two spots of the bullpen based on performance this spring, it would be Nelson and Scott Atchison. But the lure of having a second lefty is strong and Schoeneweis could sneak in there.

Back at it tomorrow with Casey Kelly pitching against the Rays in Port Charlotte.

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