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No timetable set for Beckett's return

No timetable set for Beckett's return

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VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Don't talk to Red Sox manager Terry Francona about Opening Day. His ace, Josh Beckett, is OK, and that's all that matters for now. Crisis averted.

"He doesn't want to miss a game," Francona said. "He doesn't want to miss anything. He just needs to feel better. We'd be doing him and our ballclub a disservice for him to go out there and try to pitch when he's not supposed to -- and then he'll miss more time. When he's ready, he'll be ready."

That might not be anytime soon, though -- perhaps not even soon enough for the team's season-opening series in Japan. And that's just fine, too.

"That's not the end-all, be-all," Francona said of Opening Day. "There's a long season to get prepared for, and that's what I told him last night. I said, 'Just get better.' Then there won't be a timetable."

Beckett, originally scheduled to pitch on Saturday afternoon before foregoing his start with lower back spasms, told Sox officials that he felt markedly better after waking up on Sunday morning. He passed a series of medical tests, and though he's still not normal -- some spasms remain -- he may be able to resume baseball activities soon.

"We're calling it day-to-day," Francona said. "He's not going to go run a marathon tomorrow. But he showed up feeling better today, which is good."

Beckett hadn't felt any discomfort while preparing in the bullpen for his scheduled start against the Marlins on Saturday, yet the pain caused him to discontinue his warmup pitches leading into the first inning. After a brief conference with Francona and a host of coaches and teammates, Beckett departed without throwing a pitch in the game.

He reported back soreness throughout much of the previous week, though the Sox hadn't considered the issue to be anything out of the ordinary.

Now, they know it is, and until Beckett can pitch without pain, the Sox won't push him. Not at this juncture of spring, not even despite knowing that Beckett has yet to make a Grapefruit League start. There's simply no need for the Sox to hurry.

Though Francona labeled his ace's quick recovery as a "best-case scenario" -- "I think even [Beckett] was surprised," the skipper said -- he said he plans to remain rightfully cautious with the pitcher who led the league last year with 20 wins.

"We get so shook up on guys making their starts because they're such good players, that you make mistakes," Francona said. "We really don't want to do that."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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