FORT MYERS, Fla. — Exactly three weeks after he stayed in bed instead of pitching a spring training game, Josh Beckett will be under the lights at Fenway Park facing the defending world champion New York Yankees.
After another solid start Monday, he can truly appreciate such a turnaround.
"It was kind of haunting me for a bit there because I was worried about falling too far behind," Beckett said of a bug which left him bedridden for days and caused him to skip a March 14 start against Minnesota. "The training staff and the doctors did the best job they could and that's probably why I'm here."
When he fell ill, Beckett saw the progression that defines a starter's trip through spring training take a serious hit. He had to first overcome the illness, then squeeze in a bullpen session and finally pitch once through the lingering symptoms (four runs in 3 1/3 innings against Pittsburgh on March 19) before he could even begin to imagine a prime-time start against the Yanks.
Slowly he got stronger and the final step in a spring which could've seriously hampered the start of his season involved six strong innings Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Beckett surrendered a solo homer to Evan Longoria in the first and another to catcher Nevin Ashley in the third which was given a nice boost by the Fort Myers wind currents. The Rays got an unearned third run in the fifth.
Nestled in the midst of some of that messiness was a string of six straight outs which came by way of the strikeout. Beckett had eight K's in all and has 17 in 11 innings over his last two games. That's all against three measly walks.
On Monday, his changeup was dominant at times and the fastball stayed down in the zone, inducing a handful of ground balls.
Counter all that with a week in which he barely could lift the remote control and you get a pretty good example of how one works through a spring.
"You want to progressively get better and I felt like I did that," Beckett said of his spring as a whole. "I had 10 to 14 days there where I didn't feel too good and for me to bounce back after that and come in and get my pitches in and be where I need to be … getting back here every day is what I needed. I needed to make sure my legs were strong. If you can get your legs and your core underneath you, you can catch back up."
Beckett said he is looking forward to Opening Day but is doing his best not to get caught up in the hoopla surrounding playing the Yankees on national TV, saying simply "I've gotta go out and make pitches because they're a good team."
Due to a remarkable turnaround this month, he'll have the chance to do so in five days, under the lights, against the world champs.