BOSTON On the day he was not traded -- despite much speculation to the contrary -- Josh Beckett took the mound to face the Tigers Tuesday night at Fenway Park, pitted against the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and MVP, Justin Verlander.
At 5-9 with a 4.57 ERA in 17 starts, Becketts outings for most of this season have been unbecoming a starter who once wore the mantle "ace." The Red Sox are just 6-11 in his outings. In his last eight starts, Beckett is just 1-5 with a 5.02 ERA, while the Sox are 1-7 in those games.
Early on, though, it appeared as if the old Beckett had emerged, despite a heavy mist that began before the first pitch and progressed to a steady rain. Beckett struck out leadoff hitter Austin Jackson, swinging at a 91-mph fastball, and retired the first eight batters he faced. No. 9 hitter Omar Infante was the first Detroit batter to reach base, beating out a single to shortstop Pedro Ciriaco.
He looked terrific out there, obviously, the first eight hitters, manager Bobby Valentine said. Throwing out of the windup and tough conditions in the rain.
That hit quickly signaled Becketts struggles. He hit Jackson with a pitch then walked Quintin Berry and Miguel Cabrera, both on five pitches, forcing in a run.
After his last pitch, Beckett called time and signaled to the dugout.
Trainer Brad Pearson went to the mound, followed by pitching coach Bob McClure, and Valentine.
After just 2 23 innings, Becketts outing was done done in by a back spasm, it was announced later.
It locked up on me, just spasmed. Ive had this before, Beckett said. Its been worse. It wasnt getting any better and I obviously couldnt throw a strike.
It was just the last few pitches, four or five pitches out of the stretch.
When he got out of the wind-up the footing just wasnt the same, Valentine said. And his back spasmed up a little. Right now hes got the aftermath of a back spasm. Well take it day by day and see how he feels tomorrow and in between. But it was spasm, lower back.
There was no discussion of Beckett remaining in the game.
No, Valentine said. By the time I got to the mound, the medical staff and he had already talked about it and it was spasming pretty good.
Righthander Clayton Mortensen replaced him given the unenviable task of facing Prince Fielder with the bases loaded. After Fielder launched a long and loud foul ball over the Pesky Pole, Mortensen retired the Detroit slugger, holding the Tigers in check.
Mortensen -- who was called up earlier in the day from Triple-A Pawtucket to take the roster spot of Matt Albers who was traded to Arizona -- earned the win, his first of the season in the big leagues. The Sox scored four runs off Verlander in the fourth, on the way to a 4-1 victory in a game that was called with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the sixth.
Beckett had a similar situation before. In 2010 he slipped on a wet mound in Yankee Stadium on May 18 and landed on the disabled list, missing 56 games before returning on July 23.
New York was kind of like one of those deals when I felt it on one pitch, he said. This wasnt that severe. Like I said, it kept getting worse and I couldnt throw a strike.
The mound was a little sloppy. I think everybody was having trouble with it. You dont usually see Verlander walk that many guys four in five innings. It wasnt in great shape but thats just something you have to deal with.
Hell wait to see how his back feels Wednesday and go from there.
But, when he walked off the field, it was to a chorus of boos from the Fenway crowd. The reaction was highly unusual for an injured player, highly unusual from a home crowd. But, given Red Sox fans increasingly limited patience with Beckett over the last 10 months, perhaps not all that unusual.
You always notice, he said.
It is what it is.
Valentine, though, was surprised by the crowd reaction.
I was talking with the guys. I didnt really take notice of the boos, Valentine said. I dont think he deserved a boo at all. And those who were booing will probably take it back today when they figure out what the situation was.
Becketts reaction to the boos?
None whatsoever, he said.
It was the end to a strange day for him. After not being traded by the 4 p.m. deadline, he had to prepare for his 7:10 start.
I definitely had three hours to calm my mind, he said. Its definitely different. Ive never been through it. It was definitely something different for me.
Beckett said the rumors that had gained traction over the last few days leading up to the deadline did not affect him.
I dont think anything really. I didn't even know anything about it until two or three days ago, he said.
I think everybodys, there was a lot of guys in here whose name was attachedsome people didnt think they were going anywhere. I think a lot of times people try to throw as many things up against the wall as they can. And one sticks and they look like a genius.
Now, that he is still a member of the team, the pressure is on him, as it has been.
I think its been that way all year, he said. We just got to go out and win series. We got a nice little thing going right now. And lets just keep building on that.