If he can stop the Toronto Blue Jays’ offense, it will have been well worth Boston’s wait.
Beckett will return from the disabled list to make his first start of 2008 on Sunday as he tries to help the Red Sox avoid a three-game sweep in Toronto.
The 2007 AL Cy Young runner-up, Beckett (20-7, 3.27 ERA) was expected to be on the mound in the 2008 season opener in Japan for Boston (3-3) on March 25. Back spasms in spring training, though, landed him on the disabled list.
Beckett’s start against the Blue Jays will be his first in a game that counts since he beat Colorado in Game 1 of the 2007 World Series, his final performance of a postseason in which he went 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in helping the Red Sox win their second championship in four years.
Beckett was 2-1 with a 2.35 ERA last season in three starts against Toronto.
“He’s all set,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona told the team’s official Web site. “He did his side in Florida. … He did his stuff all there, felt good and he’s good to go.”
When he rejoined Boston on its trip to Toronto on Friday, Beckett had a different story, claiming his hip - not his back - kept him from stepping onto the mound in the team’s first six games.
Even without Beckett, the Red Sox have gotten decent early work from their starters, who have a 3.54 ERA in 33 1-3 innings pitched. But Boston’s bullpen has been a disaster against the Blue Jays (3-2), allowing nine runs in five innings in the first two games of this series.
Red Sox relievers gave up six runs in the eighth inning on Saturday as Toronto won 10-2. It was the fifth straight home victory for the Blue Jays over the Red Sox.
“At the beginning of the year, I think we’re all struggling,” Francona said, “especially when we get into games in the bullpen in the fifth or sixth to find roles, trying to get guys crisp, trying to find guys work.”
Meanwhile, Toronto’s bullpen has been outstanding, allowing just one run in 12 innings through the season’s first five games.
The Blue Jays will counter Beckett with their own ace in Roy Halladay (0-1, 3.86). The right-hander pitched effectively in his season debut, giving up three earned runs in seven innings at New York on Tuesday, but was saddled with a 3-2 loss.
Unlike many of the Blue Jays, Halladay struggled against Boston in 2007, going 1-3 with a 5.94 ERA in five starts.
Boston slugger David Ortiz, who is batting .292 (21-for-72) with five home runs and 19 RBIs in his career against Halladay, will try once again to jump-start his 2008 season. He’s hitting .091 (2-for-22) with two RBIs through six games.