Josh Beckett Dominates Pirates, in Line to Start Opening Day


Josh Beckett Dominates Pirates, in Line to Start Opening Day BRADENTON, Fla. — Twice in a span of six days, Josh Beckett was on the mound in Bradenton, facing the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Twice, the sun was out and both times the wind was whipping. While the scenery was the same each day, the results for Beckett were not.

"Every day's getting better and today was by far my best day in two weeks," Beckett said after striking out nine and allowing just one run in five innings of the Red Sox' 6-4 win Wednesday.

Beckett, who at one point Wednesday recorded seven of nine outs via strikeout, had been reached for four runs on six hits in 3 1/3 innings here Friday. That start came after a prolonged illness which kept him bedridden for days, caused him to miss a start and sent his spring-training routine for a loop.

A smooth outing Wednesday put those issues to bed and seemingly set Beckett on course for an opening day start against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on April 4, although nobody is saying so just yet.

"That's Tito's deal," Beckett said in reference to manager Terry Francona. "I'm sure they've got an idea."

They also have a calendar. A glance at one would reveal that Beckett is the man for the job.

If he pitches every fifth day from here on out, Beckett would be lined up to go April 3 in a meaningless exhibition game in Nationals Park in Washington. The Sox will not waste him there and can throw him the next night on five days rest against the Yankees. The next scheduled game is not until April 6, which would mean a seven-day rest period if he goes then, and getting Beckett — or any pitcher, for that matter — too far off his routine can have ramifications.

Just look at last Friday's start, which came after Beckett went 11 days between appearances and had little to no rhythm.

Jon Lester, the other viable candidate for the limelight, is slated to start Friday, which would line him up to throw in the second game of the season April 6. Like Beckett, he would be going on five days rest. Same with John Lackey on April 7.

The trio of "aces" would be lined up and ready to go in that order, it would seem. Altering things for just one of them could affect all three.

Francona has not made an announcement on the order out of the gate, but as the questions from reporters increase in number, one may be coming soon. For now, he will use feedback from the pitchers themselves in order to plot a course for the remainder of spring training.

"We talk to all our guys going into this last week as we determine when and how much. They have a say in that also," Francona said.

Until word is passed down, Beckett can take comfort knowing the hiccup he had earlier in the month is well behind him. He said Wednesday was the first day he has felt strong in a while and just needs a few tweaks to get him ready for the big stage.

A lazy day in Bradenton against the Pirates is a far cry from an April night in Fenway against the world champs, but Beckett said he has ?the feel you want to have in spring training? and, at the very least, the desire to be No. 1.

"You're only the opening day starter one time a year," Beckett said.

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