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Red Sox pregame notes: Is Josh Beckett tipping pitches?

05.11.12 at 7:05 pm ET
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Inside the Red Sox clubhouse and front office, Golf Gate appears to be a virtual non-issue when it comes to Josh Beckett. The team feels that he was healthy enough to make his start last Saturday, and scratched him merely as a precaution. That being the case, the fact that Beckett went golfing on an off-day was deemed functionally irrelevant from a practical standpoint even as the team understood how it might be perceived.

Of greater significance to the Sox and the pitcher was the fact that, in a game where he was healthy, the Indians battered Beckett. He allowed seven runs on seven hits (four doubles, two homers) while recording just seven outs in one of his worst performances as a member of the Red Sox. That it came against the Indians continued a pattern, as Beckett is 4-6 with a 5.65 ERA against Cleveland in his career. That ERA is his second worst against a club against whom Beckett has made at least five career starts.

Given that Beckett has had a number of poor outings against the Indians, the matter has raised a curiosity in the pitcher as to whether Cleveland has identified something in his delivery to indicate that he’s tipping pitches.

“I think mechanically, the information I’€™ve gotten back thus far, and it’€™s not a full-fledged investigation if you will, that his mechanics are right, but Josh seems to think this team is on him more than others and there might be something that he’€™s doing that is signaling their effectiveness. We’€™re investigating that. … Today, he was actively pursuing the answers to the problem,” said manager Bobby Valentine. “We’€™re looking at video to see why. When the cutter came in to the lefthander, they always were out in front of it. That’€™s suspicious.’€

Valentine said that he’s faced challenges in managing his new pitching staff in part because the stuff that the pitchers feature now doesn’t align perfectly with the “hours on end of video” that he’s watched of his starters, in which their pitch mix was different than it is now. Indeed, the same can be said for Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester.

“I have seen video, hours on end of video with, when you say the pitchers, with three of our starting pitchers who have a lot of video. It’€™s different,” said Valentine. “When you say, ‘€˜How do you make it like it was in the past?’€™ It’€™s difficult because one of the things in the past is that there was more velocity. Now, I’€™m not sure how that’€™s solved. Is it a mechanical thing? I don’€™t know. That’€™s usually, when you start evaluating, where you start, and then you move to the rest. There really are two different animals here.’€

OTHER NOTES

— Though Kelly Shoppach has been Beckett’s catcher five times this year, Valentine said that he was not going to commit to using Shoppach as Beckett’s personal catcher. To the contrary, he said that the pairing could be reconsidered.

“I’€™d say it’€™s open,” said Valentine. “I don’€™t think it’€™s proved to be the solution to any situations that we’€™re dealing with.”

— Valentine said that no real consideration was given to the idea of sending Clay Buchholz — mired in a string of six straight starts in which he’s allowed at least five earned runs, the longest such stretch by a Sox starter since 1925 — to the minors.

“I don’€™t give up on a player until he gives up on himself,” said Valentine. “I haven’€™t seen that with Clay. He’€™s still working hard, he and Bob McClure, are trying to solve this puzzle. I’€™m confident that the trust that I have in my coaches is going to pay off because they’€™re going to solve the puzzle. But is it difficult? Yes.”

— Valentine said that he is not aware of any trade talks involving either the acquisition or dumping of a pitcher. Major league sources dismissed the idea that the Red Sox would consider trading Josh Beckett as a reaction to Golf Gate, given that his value would be virtually non-existent and that he has given the team more quality outings (he leads the rotation with four quality starts) than any other pitcher.

“I’€™m sure that Ben’€™s looking at every conceivable way of improving our team, but I haven’€™t been in on any trade conversations about pitching, either coming or going,” said Valentine.

— The Red Sox acquired Cody Ross with the expectation that he would get playing time against left-handers. Instead, he has been a fixture of the lineup against both righties (against whom he’s hitting .260/.310/.468/.777) and lefties (.226/.306/.452/.757).

“He’€™s played better than I expected,” said Valentine. “Offensively, he’€™s been a needed addition to our lineup against right-handers as well as left-handers, and defensively, he’€™s had a couple bumps in the road, a couple blips in the radar, but he’€™s also made some very good plays. A very good guy on the team.”

Daisuke Matsuzaka is slated to make a rehab start in Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday. It will be the fourth rehab start of the right-hander’s effort to come back from Tommy John surgery. Valentine said that the 31-year-old is expected to throw roughly 90 pitches, and that the team believes that he is “very close” to being ready for a return to the major leagues. The primary area in which the Red Sox would like to see him take a step forward is in working deeper into games; in his three starts, Matsuzaka has worked no more than 4 2/3 innings.

‘€œI would say he’€™s very close. He’€™s done everything except for string the innings together. He’€™s worked out all of his pitches. He’€™s happy with his pitches, his velocity, his strength, his ability to feel a pitch out of the stretch, windup,” said Valentine. “If there’€™s a checklist, he’€™s checked off a lot of those things, and now it’€™s just stringing innings together.’€

Kevin Youkilis commenced some baseball activities on Friday, throwing on the field for the first time since he was sidelined by a stiff back.

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