Tidbits from the off-day workouts Sunday at Fenway Park in Boston before today’s Game 3 of the American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Rays:
–Josh Beckett insists he is not hurt and even got quite defensive when asked about his health Sunday.
“I’m fine,” the Red Sox right-hander said tersely. “Fine.”
Beckett’s numbers tend to indicate otherwise as he has allowed 12 runs in 9 1/3 innings in his two post-season starts, including being rocked for eight runs in 4 1/3 innings Saturday night as the Red Sox lost 9-8 in 11 innings to the Rays in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
Beckett has 12 days off before facing the Angels in the American League Division Series because of a strained muscle in his side and was also was on the disabled list from Aug. 29-Sept. 10 with an inflamed elbow. Prior to this October, he was 6-2 with a 1.73 ERA in 10 career post-season games, including going 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in four starts last year when the Red Sox won their second World Series in four years.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona confirmed Beckett’s sentiments Sunday before his team worked out at Fenway Park in advance of Monday’s Game 3 with the series tied at 1-1.
“He feels pretty good physically,” Francona said. “We spent him a few minutes with him, again just to double-check and make sure he’s OK, because, as well all know, when guys are competing they will fib or try to get through it.
“He’s certainly battling some consistency issues and I think some of that is having some of his starts interrupted. It’s been a battle for him.”
–Francona is leaning toward starting left-handed hitting utility infielder Alex Cora at shortstop Monday against Rays right-hander Matt Garza instead of switch-hitting rookie Jed Lowrie, who is 0-for-6 in the series and hit .222/.308/.344 in 212 regular-season plate appearances against righties and .338/.409/.525 in 94 plate appearances against left-handers. Cora’s regular-season numbers were .266/.378/.363 in 149 plate appearances against right-handers and .286/.333/.286 in 30 plate appearances against lefties.
–Rays manager Joe Maddon plans to get two extra right-handed bats into the lineup Monday against Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester as Rocco Baldelli will start in right field in place of Gabe Gross and Willy Aybar will be the designated hitter instead of Cliff Floyd. During the regular season, Baldelli hit .292/.382/.500 in 55 plate appearances against lefties while Aybar batted .266/.350/.444 in 140 plate appearances versus southpaws.
–Rays reliever Dan Wheeler said he would be ready to pitch Monday despite working 3 1/3 scoreless innings Saturday night in his longest outing since 2004 when he was with the Mets. Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey invented a word to describe Wheeler’s performance, calling it “behemothian.”