Beckett looking for Hollywood ending to 2012
LOS ANGELES -- On his first day as a member of a virtual All-Star team that has been assembled by the Dodgers, Josh Beckett didn't burn any Boston bridges or hurl any stones.
He'll settle for throwing fastballs and breaking balls with the Dodgers, his well-heeled and determined new employers.
"I told my dad that today -- who doesn't want to go to Hollywood to play baseball?" Beckett, 32, said in the late hours of a long Saturday that included a coast-to-coast flight with Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto and an 8-2 victory at the Marlins' expense powered in part by Gonzalez's three-run homer.
"I had a great time in Boston," Beckett added. "It was the same there. Who doesn't want to go to Boston? This is a new chapter."
Struggling with some mechanical issues and what he termed "external distractions," Beckett has not had a season typical of his career. Carrying a 125-81 career record and 3.84 ERA into his 11th Major League season, he was 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA in 21 starts, as he left the American League behind to return to the National League, where his career began with the Marlins in 2001. He made his reputation two years later, claiming the World Series MVP award in the Marlins' conquest of the Yankees.
"Balls were up, ground balls were hit hard," he said of his struggles this season. "There were also some exterior distractions. Just a lot of stuff.
"We were very talented. We should have played better. That's what I told [Red Sox general manager] Ben Cherington. I don't think he wanted to trade everybody. We just made it impossible. They wanted me to stay, Adrian, Carl to stay.
"I'm going to try to be the same guy I've always been, trying to do your job. I try to control things I can control. Some things aren't in your control. John Henry and [management in Boston], they put up and did what they're supposed to do as owners and general managers. Ultimately, it comes down to players. We didn't do our jobs and forced their hands."
And so here he is, in a new city and league, surrounded by teammates who have been rivals in the past.
"It's awesome," Beckett said. "I like where I'm at."
Admittedly, it will be a nice change to pitch in a park that is more neutral than Fenway Park, a hitters' paradise.
"Who doesn't that appeal to?" Beckett said. "But I enjoyed pitching at Fenway. I wouldn't trade those memories for anything. I'm excited to start this new chapter. I loved my time pitching at Fenway for the Boston Red Sox."
It got a little crazy last September, and it carried over into the winter. The Dodgers feel a clean slate, with everything fresh and new, could return Beckett to his dominant form of yore.
With the 2007 World Series champion Red Sox, Beckett was 4-0 in postseason play. He's 7-3 with a 3.07 ERA in 13 career postseason starts and one relief appearance. In the World Series, he's 2-1 with a 1.16 ERA in three starts.
"Josh Beckett is a proven winner, a World Series champion," said Magic Johnson, part of the Dodgers' ownership group. "He's a big-game pitcher, and that's what we were looking for. When you have him and Clayton Kershaw coming behind each other, we feel good about our rotation.
"Josh is going to enjoy pitching in this ballpark for the Dodgers, and that's what we want him to focus on."
Beckett doesn't feel he has to reach back too far to find his groove.
"I don't think I had that bad a year last year," he said. "I had a pretty good year."
Beckett was 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA in 30 starts in 2011. Starting with 2005 in Florida, he won 15, 16, 20, 12 and 17 games, respectively, before slipping to 6-6 in an injury-marred 2010.
His first impression of his new club was positive.
"We don't play baseball on paper," he said. "This team's very good on paper. From what I saw on the field today, they're very good on the field, too."
He'll get his first shot at showing his stuff in a Dodgers uniform on Monday at Colorado. One thing is certain: Beckett will be a mile high for the challenge.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.