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Beckett cheered for World Series heroics

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By Juan C. Rodriguez

Staff Writer

Posted March 5 2004


FORT LAUDERDALE -- The thumbs up Josh Beckett gave an appreciative crowd as he walked off the Fort Lauderdale Stadium mound Thursday conveyed a dual message.


It was Beckett's way of thanking the fans for their enthusiastic acknowledgement, which likely stemmed more from his last nine World Series innings than his first 22/3 in the Grapefruit League season. The gesture also conveyed Beckett's satisfaction with his first competitive outing since shutting out the Yankees in Game 6 to win the title.



The Orioles scored two runs on five hits, including Miguel Tejada's solo home run, off Beckett on their way to 6-5 exhibition win in front of 6,403 fans. Sounds worse than it actually was for Beckett, who struck out four and thrilled the audience by blowing high fastballs past Admin Bigbie and Tejada in the first inning for strikeouts.


"Mentally, you have to get yourself ready to start pitching again," Beckett said. "In the offseason you're just out throwing, getting your arm in shape. [Thursday], on a scale of 1 to 10, I pitched pretty good, probably about a 7 or 8."


Beckett hung a curveball to Tejada that landed beyond the left-field wall in the third. He also threw one in the first that froze catcher Javy Lopez for an inning-ending strikeout.


Pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal pulled Beckett with two out and two on in the third when he reached the 56-pitch mark. Battery mate Ramon Castro, who hit two homers, estimated Beckett was throwing 95-97 mph.


"It's a little bit different because it's the first time I've pitched with adrenaline [since the World Series]," Beckett said. "I don't think any of us really get up for those [batting practices] where we face our own hitters. Those aren't very exciting.


"I don't know anybody that's out there not throwing as hard as they can. It's hard to go out there and spot the ball when you're not doing what you usually do. ... My changeup, early I was rushing through my delivery, and the wind was blowing me off balance a little bit. After you get out there and throw a few pitches, you get adjusted to it."


Teammate Jeff Conine made sure Beckett recognized his initial spring performance should not be overemphasized. Asked about the reception he received walking off the field, Beckett said: "It was a pleasant surprise. They recognized what we did last year and how hard something like that is."


Interjected Conine, who was sitting two lockers away: "It wasn't for what you did today."


Beckett: "Did you get any hits today, Jeff?"


Conine, who was 0 for 2 with a walk: "Did I say that loud? I hate it when that happens."


All kidding aside, Beckett would reveal his one statistical goal for the coming season: 200 innings. Beckett figures if he throws that many, the wins, strikeouts and all other meaningful numbers will follow.


Castro does not have a figure in mind regarding homers. Among the Marlins' biggest power threats, Castro sent a Sidney Ponson curveball over the left-field wall for a two-run homer in the second. Four innings later, he hit another, a solo shot off a John Maine slider.


"I feel great, like never before," Castro said. "It's an opportunity I can't let slip through my hands. I have to do everything possible to stay in that position. That's my dream. That's what my dad taught me, to be a regular on every team I've been on. I want to demonstrate what I can do."


Infielder Josh Wilson broke a 4-4 tie in the eighth with an RBI-fielder's choice only to watch the Orioles score two in the bottom of the inning. Mike Fontenot's opposite-field homer off Mike Flannery with a man on was the winning hit.


Juan C. Rodriguez can be reached at [email protected].

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