GLENDALE, AZ – Josh Beckett has insisted all spring he feels good.
On Sunday the Dodgers right-hander backed it up.
Pitching for the first time in a competitive game since undergoing season-ending surgery last July, Beckett surrendered one hit and struck out three over two sharp innings against the San Diego Padres.
“I’m glad it went well,” a relieved Beckett said.
It was another step in the right direction for Beckett, whose season was cut short last year after undergoing surgery to remove a rib in order to relieve nerve pressure causing numbness in his right hand and fingers.
The nerve irritation – called thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) – now behind him, Beckett and the Dodgers hope he can lock down the fifth starter’s role.
Based on Sunday’s positive performance, that looks promising.
And the way Beckett feels so far this spring, he plans to be ready by Opening Day.
“Absolutely,” he said.
None of which prevented Beckett from enduring a sleepless, nervous night in anticipation of his first appearance against live opponents and an equally anxious morning and early afternoon leading up to the game.
“Just a lot of different stuff going on.” Beckett conceded of his nerves. “It’s like, OK, I’ve been pitching bullpens and now it’s actual competition, trying to get these guys out. Am I going to do something different to (get them out.)”
But after settling down, he easily handled the Padres and cleared a major mental hurdle in the process.
He felt good. He was effective. And he did it against opposing batters with an agenda to beat him.
“I just think the more times I get to face hitters trying to get hits off me and trying to put themselves in good situations, it’s going to benefit me mentally getting over whatever mental things I have going on,” Beckett said.
Namely, the fear of a recurrence of TOS.
“There’s a part of me that cant get that out of my head of ‘when is this going to happen again?’” Beckett conceded.
A few more outings like Sunday might do the trick.