Josh Beckett struck out just one batter Friday, but he went eight innings and limited the Rays to one run as part of a 12-2 Red Sox victory in the home opener at Fenway Park.
Beckett, at 94 pitches, appeared set to go for the complete game before the Red Sox scored eight times off Joel Peralta and Josh Lueke in a long bottom of the eighth inning. That caused manager Bobby Valentine to reverse course and bring in Mark Melancon for the ninth.
Beckett wasn’t blowing the Rays away today, but he got some swings and misses early on and he was able to make quick work of what has been a weak bottom half of the order for Tampa Bay. Apart from the red-hot Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria (currently hitting back-to-back in the second and third spots), no one in the Rays lineup entered the day with an average over .250.
Beckett faced questions about his thumb injury all week after giving up five homers Saturday to the Tigers in his season debut. Those aren’t likely to go away with his velocity still down a bit. However, if he shows fastball command and his good curve (which has always tended to come and go), he can still be effective for the Red Sox while throwing 89-91 mph.
Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the Blue Jays and third baseman Josh Donaldson are tabling extension talks as the two sides weren’t able to build any momentum towards agreement on a new contract.
Donaldson said, “We’re not quite there. That, to me, right now is not the major focus and I’m turning the page.” He added, “I want to play this season and really focus on winning games because, ultimately, our goal is to win a World Series and I don’t want to hinder that at all.” Donaldson also said he expects to hit free agency.
The 32-year-old avoided arbitration with the Blue Jays last month, agreeing on a $23 million salary for the 2018 season. He’s a free agent at season’s end. Last year, the three-time All-Star hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs, 78 RBI, and 65 runs scored in 496 plate appearances. Donaldson missed six weeks in the first half with a calf injury, but was able to return and post terrific numbers, so his health — at least that aspect of it — shouldn’t be a concern going into spring training.
If Donaldson does reach free agency, he’ll join a star-studded group that will likely also include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, and A.J. Pollock.