A question mark heading into the season was how the back end of the rotation would eventually take shape. Josh Beckett was coming off surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome and what he’d be able to contribute, if anything, was largely unknown. Chad Billingsley is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, which left off-season signee Paul Maholm as the the frontrunner to be named the fifth starter.
Despite being on the disabled list at the time, Manager Don Mattingly wound up selecting Beckett as the final starter in the rotation on the eve of the Dodgers’ U.S. opener. The decision would look questionable when Beckett left a rehab start six days later with an apparent injury. The right-hander would quickly recover however, completing a bullpen session before making his season debut three days after the minor injury.
Though Beckett earned his first decision on the year Friday, which was a loss, Mattingly spoke of the confidence he has in the 14-year veteran, via Ken Gurnick of Dodgers.com:
So far, I’d have to say he’s been better than I thought,” Mattingly said. “He’s made a quick change using breaking balls and splitters to both sides and changing speeds. To me, his stuff is plenty good enough to win. He can throw three breaking balls, then a fastball right by the guy. He’s been more durable than I thought he was going to be.”
It’s been a season of progress for Beckett as he managed to pitch just four innings in his first start. The 33-year-old’s best start came in a 5-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies on April 25, when the right-hander allowed two runs in 8.0 innings and struck out six. Though the Dodgers are just 1-4 in Beckett’s starts, his ability to pitch better than expected has been vital, particularly in Clayton Kershaw’s absence.
Along with Dan Haren, Beckett has helped stabilize the back of the rotation and should they each continue to pitch well, it may put the Dodgers in the discussion for the best rotation in baseball once Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu return from their respective stints on the disabled list.
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