05/15/2002 01:59 am ET
Beckett lives up to hype
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
DENVER -- Hail fell after Todd Helton drilled a home run to right off Josh Beckett in the second inning Tuesday night.
"I never pitched in hail before," Beckett said. "Hail fell on my hand when I was holding the ball."
Under different circumstances, the frozen rain could have represented an ominous sign.
But Beckett weathered the storm, regained his composure and racked up a 6-2 win for the Marlins over the Rockies at Coors Field.
A day shy of his 22nd birthday, Beckett showed no ill signs from a pesky blister that landed him on the disabled list May 1. What the rookie displayed was the confidence and command that has the organization envisioning greatness from the second overall pick in the 1999 draft.
In six innings, the right-hander was touched for just two runs on three hits. The perfectionist he is, he was kicking himself about walking three. He added a pair of strikeouts.
Making the night a complete success was the fact the blister on the middle finger presented no problems. His fastball hummed at 94 mph, and his breaking ball bit as planned. Any doubt? Ask Rockies speedster Juan Pierre, who fanned looking on a nasty hook in the third.
"Outstanding," Marlins Manager Jeff Torborg said of Beckett's effort. "Boy, he threw the ball well."
It was an impressive night in a number of ways, as the Marlins remained atop the N.L. East. Florida rebounded from Monday's 7-3 loss to even its 14-game road trip at 1-1.
Cliff Floyd, who bruised his right kneecap Monday, returned Tuesday and swatted his 13th homer. Floyd added a double in the eighth, and scored on a wild pitch -- demonstrating he still has speed.
Capping the evening was Vladimir Nunez slamming the door, working 1 2/3 scoreless innings for his eighth save. Nunez was put in a tough spot, inheriting the bases-loaded, one-out jam left by Oswaldo Mairena in the eighth inning.
"I get ready very quick," Nunez said. "I didn't know what was going on. When I got to the mound, I was thinking, 'Oh, I better make my pitches.' "
Battling back from a 3-0 count to Jose Ortiz, Nunez struck out the Rockies second baseman for out No. 2. Then he got Terry Shumpert to bounce to third base, and retired the side only after Derrek Lee made a sprawling stretch and dig on a low throw by Mike Lowell.
The team effort enabled Beckett to claim his first win in six starts.
About the only nagging sign for Beckett was his penchant for surrendering the long ball. He's given up five in his last two appearances -- all solo, and four to left-handed batters. Of the 16 earned runs he's allowed, seven have come by homers.
The Rockies took Beckett deep twice. Helton lined his ninth homer 392 feet, and in the fifth Todd Hollandsworth swatted a 2-2 pitch 358 feet down the line in left for an opposite-field homer.
"What I threw Todd Helton wasn't a bad changeup," Beckett said. "I thought Hollandsworth hit a pitcher's pitch."
Keeping the ball in the park was a problem in Beckett's last outing, too. In a 5-4 loss to the Diamondbacks on April 28, Steve Finley, Damian Miller and Mark Grace went back-to-back-to-back.
In that game, Torborg says Beckett tried to overthrow because a second blister surfaced on his middle finger.
But Beckett isn't making excuses. As long as he is on the mound, he is responsible -- no questions asked.
The way he shut down the Rockies Tuesday answered a number of questions.
"I had good location with my fastball," said Beckett, out of the lineup for 17 days. "These are the easy nights to pitch.
"I missed competing," said Beckett, who tossed 74 pitches with 46 strikes. "I thank God I'm healthy."
For the first time in weeks, Beckett left the stadium without the blister acting up. Still, he will continue to battle the blister by using iodine and rolling the tips of his fingers in a bowl dry rice. The starch, he insists, helps toughen the skin.
"It's going to be prevention now," he says. "Not treatment."
The way Beckett performed Tuesday, the Marlins aren't questioning the results.
Fish bites: RHP Gary Knotts, who walked the bases loaded and gave up a grand slam to Greg Norton Monday, was optioned to Triple-A Calgary Tuesday when Josh Beckett was activated off the disabled list. ... 2B Luis Castillo, out two games with tightness in his right hamstring, was back in the lineup Tuesday and had two hits, including a bunt single in the sixth. Although he tweaked the hamstring legging out the bunt, Castillo went on to steal his N.L. leading 15th base. ... Tim Raines, who came off the bench to single in the seventh, is now 4-for-17 pinch-hitting.
Joe Frisaro covers the Marlins for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.