SEATTLE — Josh Beckett is joking in the dugout and impressing in his prestart workouts prior to his return to Boston’s rotation Friday at Seattle.
Tim Wakefield isn’t laughing nearly as much.
The 43-year-old knuckleballer is heading to Boston’s bullpen when Beckett, the No. 1 starter, two-time All-Star and former World Series MVP, returns from the disabled list to make his first start since mid-May.
“Well, I don’t think he wanted to hug me,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said dryly of Wakefield before Thursday night’s series opener at Seattle.
“I guess we do what’s best for the team, explain it. Regardless of who you are, we try to have the same attitude: Put the team first.”
Boston began Thursday 2-5 since the All-Star break and seven games out in the AL East.
Wakefield, who is signed through 2011, was selected for the All-Star team last season for the first time but is 3-8 with a 5.58 ERA this season. He was unable to hold onto a 4-0 lead in Tuesday’s loss at Oakland. He allowed three earned runs in six innings.
Francona said Wakefield will be ready “if we need him again [in the rotation], which I don’t doubt we will.”
Beckett is ready, following Boston’s patient approach to his low back strain. He is 1-1 with a 7.29 ERA in eight starts this season, but Francona remarked how good Beckett looked during a recent minor-league rehabilitation stint.
“Now, he may not throw a no-hitter [Friday], but he’s got good arm strength and he’s got real good arm speed. And you can hear him in the dugout [on this road trip] making stupid comments, which is good,” Francona said jokingly.
Beckett said he didn’t want to talk Thursday but he’d be plenty available this weekend. He hasn’t been that since May 18, when he lasted 4ª innings and allowed the Yankees five runs.
Even before the 30-year-old started feeling back pain, he was struggling.
Beckett allowed five runs on opening night against New York. A day later, he agreed to a $68 million, four-year contract extension, and then allowed seven runs to Texas and eight at Toronto over consecutive starts in late April.
“I think he tried to live up to his contract. Not in a bad way,” Francona said. “He’s a conscientious kid.”
One that Boston is relying upon to spark a summer resurgence, starting Friday night.
Citgo sign to get makeover
BOSTON — The iconic red, white and blue Citgo sign visible over Fenway Park’s famous Green Monster in left field is going dark for a couple months for an extreme makeover.
The Venezuelan oil company says 218,000 LED lights on the 3,600-square-foot sign will be replaced with more environmentally friendly and weather-resistant lights.
The more than 9,000 feet of lights on the 45-year-old sign were replaced five years ago, but those lights that saved $18,000 a year in energy costs are now out of production.
The sign went dark for four years starting in 1979 at the height of the energy crisis, and in 1982 Citgo announced plans to dismantle it.
But the sign stayed after an uproar from Red Sox fans.