09/11/2002 11:20 pm ET
Beckett blisters opposition in return
Hurler tosses two hitless innings, may start Saturday
By Travis Hill / Special to MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Josh Beckett's season has most certainly not gone as planned. He came into the season as one of the most highly-touted rookie pitchers in recent memory, and many experts were talking about him winning Rookie of the Year honors, and perhaps even contending for the Cy Young Award.
But a freak bout with blisters derailed any chances Beckett had of making his mark on the National League in 2002. The right-hander has gone to the disabled list on three separate occasions with blisters on his pitching fingers, and what was once promising, turned into frustrating.
So, although the Florida coaching staff is relieved that Beckett's golden right arm is still healthy, it was with guarded enthusiasm that they activated their prize hurler on Wednesday afternoon, and brought him into the game in the sixth inning.
They could not have been more pleased with the results.
Beckett stormed through two perfect innings of relief in Wednesday night's 9-2 loss to Philadelphia, striking out two and looking like the phenom all the experts were expecting to see.
"He had good power, and his finger held up well," manager Jeff Torborg said. "I was a little worried about his command -- I didn't know what it was going to be like. He threw the heck out of the ball, and had a nice curveball."
Beckett, who said afterward that his arm "felt good," is eager to get back on the mound.
"I want to come back soon," Beckett said.
Beckett showed his previously blistered finger to reporters after the game and reported no pain. According to Torborg, if Beckett's arm and finger are still feeling fine tomorrow, he will pencil Beckett in as the starter for Saturday's game in Atlanta.
"We'll see how his arm responds, and if it works out right, we'll start him Saturday," Torborg said. "But if his arm is a little tender, and doesn't feel real strong in between, then we'll back him off. But I think, tentatively, Saturday."
Florida pitching coach Brad Arnsberg was also impressed with Beckett's return.
"He was solid," Arnsberg said. "There was no burning in his finger afterward. He threw 24 pitches, and as far as that and pitch selection, it was a perfect outing. We'll see how he is tomorrow -- we're shooting for Saturday."
Both Torborg and Arnsberg said that if Beckett makes the Saturday start, it will be an abbreviated one, and he will throw only a few innings.
Torborg had said before the game that he probably would not bring Beckett in if it was a tight situation, and with Florida comfortably down 9-1 in the sixth, he called on him.
He opened things up by blowing a 93-mph fastball past Phillies catcher Johnny Estrada. He followed that with a 95-mph heater, and then finished Estrada off with buckling, 74-mph curveball that he could only stare at.
Beckett then faced pinch-hitter Eric Valent, who was quickly overwhelmed. Beckett struck Valent out swinging, topping out with a 96-mph fastball.
In his next inning of work, Beckett had to face the 2-3-4 hitters in Philadelphia's order -- Doug Glanville, Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell. The three had earlier combined for five hits, five runs and two RBIs on the night, but they were no match for Beckett. He marched through all three hitters easily, getting Glanville and Abreu to pop out, and Burrell to dribble one in front of catcher Ramon Castro.
It was the first outing for Beckett since Aug. 24 in San Diego. After reporting blister problems in that game agianst the Padres, Beckett was placed on the 15-day DL. His first problem with the blisters came after he was beaten, 5-4, by Curt Schilling and the Diamondbacks in Arizona on April 28. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 1.
He was activated on May 14 in Colorado, and he took the mound later that day against the Rockies, and got his first win of the season.
He was forced to go back on the 15-day DL on June 5, when the blisters acted up again. This time, the blisters were really giving him trouble, and he was forced to miss over a month. The Marlins training staff thought they had the problem figured out when they re-activated him on July 16, and he was healthy for over a month, going 2-3 over that span.
Painful Penny: In the days leading up to Brad Penny's start on Wednesday night, Torborg had said that Beckett might not see action in the game if Penny was having a strong start.
After one inning, it was clear that Beckett would most likely see some action.
"(The Phillies) whacked Penny quick," Torborg said.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins and center fielder Doug Glanville both singled to open the game, and a line-drive single by left fielder Pat Burrell put the Phils up 1-0 with one out.
With two outs and two on, Phillies' third baseman Placido Polanco jumped all over a Penny fastball, launching it into the left-field seats for a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead. Philadelphia would add runs in the third and fourth innings before Torborg went to the bullpen.
"(Penny) was up," Torborg said. "Rollins hit a curveball to get it started. Glanville hit a pitch that was up. Polanco hit a pitch hat was up. He needed to get the ball down -- his fastball wasn't down."
Torborg said that Penny's curve was not necessarily the problem on Wednesday, but missing with his fastball was the key.
"His curve wasn't bad," Torborg said. "But you've got to pitch off of your fastball, and he wasn't able to do that well."
Penny was not available for comment after the game.
Travis Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or any of its clubs.