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Pitching Through Pain Is For Geniuses

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Boston Globe:

Josh Beckett appears to be progressing toward full health, but team sources confirmed that the Red Sox pitcher required an injection of a painkiller and anti-inflammatory medication after injuring his right oblique during a bullpen session at Fenway Park on the final weekend of the regular season.

Though Sox officials downplayed the severity of Beckett's injury at the time, the fact that he had an injection suggests the ailment was more severe.

So far in the postseason, Beckett has allowed 12 runs, 23 baserunners, and five homers in 9.1 innings. His strike rate is down from 66% to 58%. His swinging strike rate is down from 8.7% to 5.5%. His line drive rate has doubled. His velocity is down ~2-3mph on every pitch and he's thrown exactly one fastball at or above 95. The Red Sox have lost both of his starts.

Josh Beckett isn't right. I think that much is plainly obvious even if you're just watching him and not looking at the numbers. His fastball doesn't have the same zip, his curveball doesn't have the same snap, and he doesn't have the usual command of his pitches that we've come to expect from one of the better starters in baseball. He's a shell of what he normally is, and hitters have taken liberal advantage.

I'm not going to call the Red Sox out for letting him pitch. They had no way of knowing how he would respond to the injury and subsequent injection, and in that scenario you can't just blindly sit your best starting pitcher. Not that Beckett would've let them do that anyway. Not in the playoffs. That just isn't realistic.

But now the Red Sox have a sample size of two lousy starts in which Beckett hasn't looked anything like his normal self. At this point - assuming Beckett doesn't magically heal overnight - they'd better be extra cautious. If Beckett gets another start or three (and I guess there's no guarantee that he does), the dugout needs to keep a close eye on him, because if he's laboring, then he's not doing the team any good, and he's actively hurting their odds of winning a championship. This version of Josh Beckett is bad. He's a bad pitcher. And leaving him out there to throw 93 bad pitches against a Tampa Bay order that's lighting him up certainly didn't go very well. Francona and company can't allow that to happen again. They need to be quicker on the horn if Beckett doesn't shape up.

In an ideal world, if Beckett's oblique is bothering him and preventing him from pitching at 100%, he would come forward and admit to it. Maybe even talk himself out of a start if he feels he can't help the team. But since we can't expect that to happen at this time of year, it's up to the coaching staff to determine how best to use him (if there's a next time). And that presumably means getting him out of the game earlier if he starts doing this again. I can't speak to Terry Francona's mindset, so I don't know his feelings on the matter, but I can't imagine that staying on a starter's good side is a higher priority than winning the Series. And right now the former is actively harming the chances of the latter.

Pitchers. Coaching would be so much easier if athletes were honest.