Beckett: Head fine, back much better

March, 8, 2011
3/08/11
3:22
PM ET
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett doesn’t imagine himself being at the same risk for a concussion as say, someone in the National Football League.

“I’d like to think those guys get hit on a more regular basis than we do,’’ he said Tuesday. “I don’t think it’s something I have to worry about re-occurring.’’

Beckett missed two days last week after sustaining a concussion Monday when hit in the head by ball off the bat of Sox staff member Ino Guerrero. He pitched a simulated game on Friday, then went 3 2/3 innings Tuesday against the Houston Astros, allowing one run on a wind-blown double while striking out four.

“I’ve just got to make sure Ino wears his vest and pink hat so we know where he’s at,’’ Beckett joked. “It’s not something I’m concerned with happening again. I think those guys [NFL players] have a lot more to worry about, just being as big and strong and fast as they are.’’

One major league scout who watched Beckett Tuesday said, "That's the best I've seen him in a while. He was pretty crisp, no restrictions because of his back. His fastball was good. He went inside aggressively. His off-speed stuff, his curveball and changeup were very good. His change, he used to throw 90 miles an hour, almost like a two-seamer. Today it had real good depth.

"I was very impressed, to say the least. If today is what the Red Sox get from him, I think they'll be very happy with him.''

Beckett, who has been throwing every other day for the last month except for the days he missed with the concussion, said he is looking to make his next appearance on regular four days’ rest. Manager Terry Francona said he was "pretty pleased" with what he saw.

"Coming off a missed outing, I thought he looked pretty strong,'' he said. "I think we’re all pretty pleased. He threw some good breaking balls.

"I think the biggest thing is trying to stay out of the middle. If you throw a pitch you don’t want, it doesn’t wander right over the middle. Just trying to leverage the ball downhill so if you miss, you miss down, or away, but not the flat fastball.''

The volume of concussions in the NFL definitely has caused people to raise more questions, Beckett said.

“I remember a couple of years ago we actually took a concussion test at the beginning of spring training,’’ he said. “I don’t know what I did. It felt like I was doing a color-blind test -- what color do you see here, stuff like that.

“I don’t remember a concussion playing [high school] football. I did have another one recreationally [He had a fight].’’

Across town in Hammond Stadium, meanwhile, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, out since last July with a concussion, appeared in a game for the first time this spring.

Perhaps more importantly than the concussion for Beckett is that he said his back feels much better than it did last year. He missed 58 games on the DL after slipping on a wet mound in Yankee Stadium and aggravating a back strain.

“I feel different walking around,’’ he said. “More stability than anything. It’s not like it feels stronger, but more stable. Balanced is a good word for it. Balance is huge in pitching. It keeps me healthy.’’

Beckett said he feels the difference in his back not only when he is pitching. “I feel it all day long,’’ he said.

Beckett said he shortened his stride since the simulated game and threw some good breaking balls. “I was getting out too fast and too long,’’ he said.

Beckett, who has been throwing every other day for the last month except for the days he missed with the concussion, said he is looking to make his next appearance on regular four days’ rest.

Tuesday, he faced both Chris Johnson, the son of Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson, and Koby Clemens, whose father, Roger, watched from a press-level suite after being escorted into the park by Sox security chief Charles Cellucci.

How did it feel like facing the son of a pitcher he once idolized?

“Old,’’ he said. “Cam [Mike Cameron] teased me, said I was getting old, facing the sons of guys I’ve faced.’’

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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