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Josh Beckett begins life without Jason Varitek (by pitching two innings)

03.04.12 at 3:50 pm ET
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Josh Beckett threw his two innings Sunday to Jarrod Saltalamacchia

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Most everything was like any other first Grapefruit League start for Josh Beckett. Two innings, one hit, two walks, 36 pitches and a whole bunch of change-ups.

“I think it’s just nice to get back out there,” Beckett said. “Get the adrenaline and that’s definitely different than anything we’ve had so far, even with live BPs. I think right now it’s just building up. I felt like I stayed strong through it. I was getting a little bit big out of the stretch in the second inning. Just couldn’t make the adjustment.”

But one thing was missing — Jason Varitek.

Beckett is heading into his seventh season with the Red Sox without the catcher he threw more pitches to than any other backstop in his career. The starter joined Varitek as his battery-mate 139 times, with Paul Lo Duca coming in next at 35 games. The backstop the righty threw to in the Red Sox’ Grapefruit League opener Sunday, Jarrod Saltalamachia? They’ve hooked up just three regular season games.

“You’ve got to learn. You work together. That was one thing Jason and I did really, really well. We worked together. There were meetings where I got my way and there were meetings where he got his way. Being able to resolve those differences and making the right call not because one guy’s too stubborn, but making the right decision because that’s what you’ve got to do.

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine is familiar with certain pitchers wanting to be with certain catchers — having cited the time his closer wouldn’t throw to his starting catcher in Japan — but Valentine also knows such partnerships, like the one Beckett and Varitek are leaving behind, can take a while to click on all cylinders.

“I don’t think there’s one way of ever rectifying that from the outside. That’s only rectified within by the catcher and the pitcher really feeling comfortable together,” Valentine said. “What we’re going to have, and luckily I have Gary Tuck on the staff because he’s going to help facilitate with this, and Bob McClure is going to help facilitate with this, there’s trust that has to be established and we can’t deal with the blame game. A hit is a hit, end of conversation. A home run is going to be a home run, end of conversation. A 3-2 pitch is a 3-2 pitch, that’s the end of the conversation because they’re working together. But that won’t happen for a while.”

While Beckett understands it’s time to move on, he’s not denying what he’s leaving behind with Varitek was extremely unique.

“You know, I think it just takes time as far as the signal calling goes,” he said. “I think anybody can kind of, you can kind of get on the same page. They’re going to know what I want to throw in certain situations and what my out pitch that day. A lot of that is just learned each day, in the bullpen, or even through the first three or four innings.

“Trust is a big thing. That’s one thing Jason was so good at it. I knew when he had just a lot of confidence in one pitch. He would go to it and I would maybe shake it and he would go right back to it. I knew he saw something that I didn’t see.”

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