FORT MYERS, Fla. — Josh Beckett had no problem pitching against a division rival so close to the start of the regular season.
Beckett tossed five innings of one-hit ball and the Boston Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 8-0 on Tuesday.
“Josh is working on his changeup a little, and I thought threw a lot of really good pitches today,” manager Bobby Valentine said. “I think he got his work in, put up a bunch of zeros, was competitive working against their hitters and I think that’s what he needed. He’ll have one more short (start). But he had pretty good stuff today.”
Beckett struck out five and walked three while lowering his spring ERA to 0.95 in five starts. He threw 84 pitches, 49 for strikes.
The All-Star right-hander thinks he is very close to being ready to start the season, but still has things to work on.
“As far as arm strength and stuff goes there’s still stuff you got to figure out during the season, too,” he said. “I think if you hit the ground running in April, you’re probably not very old. So spring training’s, in my opinion, a little bit long. But it’s to get everybody ready.”
Beckett is scheduled to start Boston’s home opener on April 13 against the Rays. This was the only time he faced them in spring training.
“I think you could face a team once during spring training,” he said. “But, yeah, I definitely think there comes a familiar approach, if you will, especially when it comes to how you got to a pitch or how you got a guy out. The more times he sees that the more times he’s going to have either video or a mental log of, ‘OK, this is how he got me out. This is what he’s going to do this time.’”
Tampa Bay was shut out for this third time this spring. The Rays managed just three hits; a double by Jose Lobaton, and singles from Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist.
Cody Ross hit a three-run homer off Joel Peralta in the second. He leads the Red Sox with four home runs this spring.
With Tampa Bay’s James Shields pitching in a minor league game, reliever Fernando Rodney started for the Rays and threw one hitless inning.
Rays right-hander Brandon Gomes, coming off back surgery, recorded two outs in the seventh and was charged with four runs. He walked four and allowed one hit.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he felt Gomes, coming off back surgery, was close to being completely healthy but not quite there yet. Gomes agreed.
“I’m confident I’m still very close to where I need to be,” he said.
NOTES: The Red Sox made a series of roster moves. SS Jose Iglesias and 1B Lars Anderson were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. RHPs Justin Germano and Doug Mathis and OF Josh Kroeger were reassigned to minor league camp. … The Red Sox are off on Wednesday, but will have several pitchers in minor league games. RHPs Clay Buchholz and Andrew Bailey are scheduled to pitch in the Triple-A game, while RHPs Aaron Cook and Vicente Padilla are scheduled to pitch in the Double-A game. … Maddon said RHP Jeff Niemann would remain in the rotation, with RHP Wade Davis going to the bullpen. Maddon did not set the order, but the rotation also includes James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore. … Rays CF B.J. Upton, who has been hampered by an ailing back, expects to be in the lineup on opening day. … Rays OF Sam Fuld will get a second opinion on his ailing right wrist. … Tampa Bay SS Reid Brignac, who has been limited by an ailing foot, said if he gets through a minor league game on Tuesday, he will play in the major league game Wednesday.