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03/08/11 7:32 PM ET

Healthy spring key for Red Sox's Beckett

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After spending much of the winter strengthening his back, Red Sox right-hander Josh Beckett is regaining his comfort level both on the mound and in his daily activities.

And if he can stay healthy -- something he couldn't do in 2010 -- Beckett could be primed for a rebound season.

"I feel different just walking around," Beckett said. "It's more stability than anything. It's not that you like feel like you're stronger. You just feel a little more stable. Maybe balance would be a good word for it. I feel it all day long."

Beckett looked like a confident pitcher during Tuesday's game against the Astros. Over 3 2/3 innings, he allowed three hits and a run, walking one and striking out four. If not for a misplay by Josh Reddick in right field, he wouldn't have allowed a run.

Not only did Beckett take a physical beating last season, but there was also a mental toll from producing a 5.78 ERA, which was a slap in the face to a pitcher who likes to shoulder a lot of responsibility for his team.

In a sense, Beckett is looking to regain some of the swagger that dissipated last summer. But that might entail nothing more than staying away from injuries.

"There's some mental things, but I'd say a large majority of it is physical," Beckett said. "Some of that can criss-cross a little bit. Mentally, you have to remember yourself being healthy, because a lot of times when you look back, all you have is the last thing you did. If you weren't healthy, that's what you remember."

It's tough to know what hurt Beckett more last season -- his back or his confidence.

"I don't think he ever got untracked," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "By then, he was fighting it. I think it was both. It just kind of snowballed and he was never able to build any kind of momentum in the right direction."

And as far as Beckett is concerned, a healthy season always starts with a healthy spring.

"Getting through Spring Training is big, because then you're not playing catchup," he said. "That's always been my thing, ever since I got here in '06. I'm always preaching that to myself and preaching that to [the media] as well -- about getting out of Spring Training healthy.

"Tito says it well: 'There are some guys here that are trying to get ready for a long season, and there are some guys here that are trying to make a team, and then there's the other guys.' I fit in that group where I'm trying to get ready for a long season, and this time here is very important."

The righty had a temporary interruption to his Spring Training routine when batting practice instructor Ino Guerrero hit an ill-timed fungo off Beckett's head in batting practice eight days ago. But a mild concussion turned out to be nothing more than a temporary nuisance, as Beckett clearly seemed back on track on Tuesday.

"My curveball was good," Beckett said. "We changed a couple of things in my delivery, and we're still making adjustments with it. The adjustment came faster with the breaking ball. I threw some good changeups. I threw one to a righty on an 0-0 count, and I threw one on a 1-0 count to a lefty."

The mechanical adjustment was typical Spring Training stuff.

"Shortening my stride," said Beckett. "My last start, that was a big thing, getting out too fast. [Pitching coach] Curt [Young] and I sat down and ironed things out."

Beckett threw 55 pitches against the Astros, 30 for strikes.

"Pretty good," said Francona. "I thought he threw his fastball downhill. Stayed out of the middle. Especially coming off a missed outing. He looked pretty strong. I think we were all pretty pleased."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.