03/08/10 6:03 PM EST
Beckett's timing just right on perfect day
Ace throws three spotless frames after late start to warmups
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
Facing the Cardinals on Monday afternoon, Boston's ace pitched three perfect innings while striking out three.
"I felt like I located, I got the ball down well," Beckett said. "I got some ground balls in the first inning, then really got my legs under me in the second.
"I got out there a little bit later than I usually do. Warmups took me right up until game time, pretty much. In the second inning, my timing was getting better."
Beckett threw 35 pitches over his three innings, 25 of them for strikes. He largely featured a fastball-changeup combination, though he did mix in three or four breaking balls. Beckett has made improving his offspeed pitch a focus area this spring. It was in fine form when he struck out Colby Rasmus with a 1-2 changeup to start the second inning.
"This year, timing is big for me," Beckett said. "It goes into how I feel. It changes from year to year. You have different things you want to work on from start to start, from bullpen to bullpen. I really want to establish my changeup and the arm speed on my changeup. I want to throw it in different counts, just getting a feel for it."
"He was good. He was really good," manager Terry Francona added. "Fastball, changeup ... he threw a couple of the best changeups I've seen. A couple of good breaking balls. He was really good. He went down and threw 15 more in the bullpen just to try and stretch it out a little bit, because he's got an extra day until his next day."
Putting up zeroes is nice, but it's certainly not the focus at this time of the year. While not wholly irrelevant, results are barely noteworthy for an established starter. Beckett would rather evaluate his performance based on how comfortable he was on the mound and how he was able to execute his pitches. He wasn't even sure how he had fared in terms of his control, but it was mission accomplished based on what he was hoping to do out there.
"I think it's how I felt," Beckett said. "That's important in Spring Training. I don't know what the numbers were, but you definitely are trying to throw strikes right now and make them swing the bat."
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It also gave Beckett the opportunity to get some more work in with Victor Martinez behind the plate. Martinez came over at the Trade Deadline last July and, understandably, is still learning the pitching staff. In a more relaxed setting like Spring Training, it's a great way for pitcher and catcher to get a better feel for each other.
"It's a good time to work on things," Beckett said. "The results aren't as magnified. It's a good time to learn with him.
"I think we're comfortable with each other. It's a feel. He gets a feel for what I like to throw at certain times. That creates rhythm. There's definitely some of that. I'm definitely comfortable with the way he receives the ball and everything like that. For us right now, it's about getting on the same page every pitch."
That kind of understanding comes with time, and Beckett felt confident the batterymates would get there as they continued to work with one another. While Martinez does not typically get rave reviews for his defensive work, Beckett was quick to point out that the backstop had caught two Cy Young Award winners while in Cleveland, and he and V-Mart are well on their way to being in sync 100 percent of the time.
"On a scale of one to 10, I'd say we're at a seven right now," Beckett said. "It's very difficult for you to expect a guy to come over three-quarters of the way through a season and just pick up the same page with everybody. It's very difficult. I rely heavily on those guys. I'm not ashamed to say that. We're doing well. It's just not like every pitch."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.