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Red Sox notes: Time and time again, pace is an issue with Josh Beckett and the Sox

08.31.11 at 8:51 pm ET
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With all the complaining and moaning about the length of Red Sox-Yankees games, there is some irony not lost on Terry Francona.

With Tuesday’s three-hour, 59-minute marathon, the two teams have combined to play 11 games of at least 3:24, including two over four hours this season. Joe Torre, the former Yankees manager and now an MLB operations executive, oversees how well games are managed by players, managers and umpires alike.

“What’s interesting about this is, because Joe Torre is in charge of this, he had the greatest quotes of all on why these games are long,” Francona said Wednesday. “But it’s two really good teams, and there’s a lot at stake, there’s a lot of attention to detail. Every pitch seems pretty big, every base runner seems pretty big and then there’s [the fact] so many of these are nationally televised games, that’s going to slow it down, too. I think it’s just the fact that they are important to both teams and we treat it that way. I think the players feel that way and the players feel that way.”

The Red Sox manager said he isn’t about to tell Wednesday’s starting pitcher Josh Beckett to do something that will make him feel uncomfortable. Beckett was criticized by former Mets manager Bobby Valentine on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball during his start on Aug. 7 for taking as much as 45 seconds between pitches to deliver the baseball.

“That’s not going to make me lose sleep,” Francona said of Valentine’s critique.

Wednesday’s game was on ESPN nationally but the lead crew of Dan Schulman, Orel Hersheiser and Valentine were not calling the game. Francona acknowledged that major league baseball will occasionally inform teams when they believe pitchers are being too deliberate and slowing the pace of the game.

“They could,” Francona said. “From our standpoint, we always want our pitchers to work quick, just because your defense is going to be better and the game flows better. But if I have my choice of him pitching slow and winning and getting a letter from the [MLB], that’s what I’d go with rather than him hurry and get knocked around.”

On Aug. 7, Beckett labored through 101 pitches over six innings, in a 3-2 game won by the Red Sox in 10 innings. That game took four hours, 15 minutes, with no delays.

“I understand the point,” Francona said. “That just happened. It was a tough night for him He kind of slugged his way through it but he’s generally pretty good.

“I notice it on my way home. Seriously, look at my watch and go, ‘Whoa! It’s 11:30.’ Not during a game. The only game I probably ever notice when there’s a game, 11-0, one of those type games. Games are fun.”

The best sign for Jarrod Saltalamacchia on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after getting drilled in the left forearm by a 93-MPH cutter from Mariano Rivera, was his presence in the batting cage, taking hacks with no visible discomfort.

“I think we thought it was OK just because it got the meat [of the forearm],” Francona said. “When it first happened, it’s hard to tell when a guy check swings, where it hits him. From my vantage point, it looked like it hit him on the back of the hand, which is kind of scary but he just got a good old-fashioned bruise. I’m surprised that doesn’t happen more, with the way that ball cuts. That’s a pitch that kind of has a mind of its own.”

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said before the Red Sox game against the Yankees Wednesday night that J.D. Drew suffered a mild setback in his rehab outing Tuesday night, with the outfielder spraining his right, middle finger while playing for the PawSox.

“We don’t think it’s anything major but he’s not going to play tonight. So we’ll see how long that puts him back,” Epstein said. “Right now, we’re status quo. We’ll see what happens when J.D.’s ready.”

Drew went 3-for-3 in the Tuesday night game, and was potentially set to rejoin the Red Sox’ lineup Thursday.

“I don’t think it as anything major, but it’s just kind of uncomfortable swinging the bat today when he tried it,” Epstein explained. “So we said they have a day off tomorrow anyway, just come back here and we’ll check it out and see where we go from there.”

Drew has been on the 15-day disabled since July 26 with a left shoulder impingement.

As for Kevin Youkilis, who could be activated Friday from a strained lower back, there are no such setbacks.

On the other hand, another player is not dealing with great news concerning his back injury as reliever Bobby Jenks had to postpone throwing. And there’s no timetable for when he might resume.

“No, we really don’t He’s not throwing. He doesn’t feel ready to do that so he’s just day-to-day like all of us. He looks like he’s been through a ringer. He’s lost a ton of weight. We’re just trying to get him back on his feet. Hopefully, [Thursday] we’ll have better news.

“The hope is we have a guy who is fresh. The other side of that is you have a guy who hasn’t pitched much. And to think maybe a guy could come back and be in mid-season form after pitching just two innings, I don’t know how realistic that is. When we originally set this up, the timetable, send him to Florida and then send him to Triple-A, it wasn’t just for an outing or two. He was going to pitch a little bit.”

“Not much. He pitched for me a little bit in Philadelphia a long time ago. Haven’t seen him because he’s been in the National League for a while.”

Right-hander Junichi Tazawa – who is overcoming “Tommy John” surgery on his right elbow in 2009 – could be one of those September call-ups if the club so chooses. He is 4-4 with a 4.45 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP in 20 games – eight starts – split between Salem, Portland and Pawtucket.

“He’s doing terrific,” Francona said when asked by a female Japanese baseball writer before Wednesday’s game. “He’s really doing well. His velocity is coming back along with his command. Getting your velocity back is good and important but when you’re commanding along with it means you’re starting to compete and not rehab. The reports have been really good.

Will he be back Thursday when major league rosters expand to 40?

“Nice try, lady,” Francona quipped with a good-natured laugh. “We’ll see.”

Read More: bobby jenks, Bobby Valentine, Boston Red Sox, ESPN Sunday Night Baseball
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