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Beckett nears return to mound

Beckett nears return to mound

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox ace Josh Beckett threw for the second consecutive day Monday with no recurrence of the back spasms that scratched him from his March 8 start against the Marlins.

Sox pitching coach John Farrell said Beckett made 55 throws, five more than originally planned, from 120 feet. Beckett played catch with Triple-A Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur in left field of City of Palms Park.

"He was actually able to get out to 120 feet of long toss, and felt as he did [Sunday]. The extra five at 120 feet were because of how well he felt today," Farrell said. "So, no discomfort of any kind, no restrictions again. So a successful Day 2. [On Tuesday] he'll take a normal long toss as he would prior to his starts or bullpens, which gets him out to about 180 feet, have a day off, and then be on the mound [for a bullpen session] on Thursday."

Beckett, who went 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA in 2007 and was the Majors' only 20-game winner, could pitch in a Minor League game Saturday or Sunday, depending upon how he responds to his Thursday bullpen session.

"The target dates are this: Once he throws his 'pen on Thursday, it'll either be Saturday or Sunday that he would get in a game," Farrell said. "I think more importantly [it is] based on how he feels, whether he feels like he needs just one day off and then a game, or two days off as a regular five-day rotation would have."

Farrell said Beckett's first game would be two innings, and 35 pitches, increasing to 50 to 55 pitches in his second game and gradually progressing each outing. Beckett will be free to throw all his pitches in the bullpen session and in games.

Sox manager Terry Francona, in Tampa for the team's game against the Yankees, would not discuss a date for Beckett's return to the rotation, but said he is optimistic about the pitcher's progress.

"Beckett had another very good day," Francona said. "[That decision is] probably going to come fairly quickly. When I say that, he hasn't been down long enough where he's lost any arm strength, things like that. We don't want to do anything crazy, but he had another really good day.

"The plan is that they'll keep an eye on him [in Fort Myers while the team travels to Japan] and he'll have a schedule that's mapped out," Francona said. "As long as his back feels good, he'll follow that schedule. When we feel like he's stretched out enough to pitch in a Major League game, he will."

Francona said the decision will ultimately depend on how Beckett responds to the plan.

"It's all according to how he feels," Francona said. "To do it any differently would be silly on my part. He's going to go as fast as he can. We know that."

Beckett did not comment on his outing.

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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