A year ago, Josh Beckett was dealing with tingling in his fingers that eventually led to season-ending thoracic outlet surgery.
On Sunday, Beckett had full utility of his fingers, using all five to toss a no-hitter in the Dodgers' 6-0 win over the Phillies. The right-hander needed 128 pitches to finish the feat, the first of his 14-year career.
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"That was a lot of fun," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Josh has been throwing the ball good all year. For him to be able to do that today is nice, for everything he's been through with us -- the surgery last year, missing the whole season. Changing himself as a pitcher, using the breaking ball more and everything else -- it was fun to watch."
It has been a long road for the 34-year-old. Beckett made just eight starts in 2013, going 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA before leaving his May 13 start prematurely. A groin strain forced him to the disabled list, and he was on the verge of a return before surgery to relieve pressure on his nerves spelled the end of his season.
After having his start to this year, Beckett made his debut on April 10. In eight starts before Sunday, Beckett had been much better than his 2013 showing -- he was 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings heading into Sunday's outing. Even if he wasn't dominating in vintage fashion, Beckett certainly appeared to have figured something out.
Sunday, it all came together. Beckett used a fastball that, when needed, touched 94 mph and mixed in a curveball that, instead of being utilized as an out pitch, served as a change of pace. He struck out just six -- a sign that the power pitcher of old is a distant memory -- but instead induced 10 ground ball outs. Like throwers become pitchers with development, Beckett's transformation from stuff to substance was complete. And, playing the Phillies didn't hurt.
With the accomplishment, the first of this MLB season and the first for the Dodgers since Hideo Nomo in 1996, Beckett has a 3-1 record, 2.43 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in nine starts. He's not a good bet to remain as one of the league's best -- even now, he's likely overvalued due to residual name recognition from his dominant years -- but if this is a glimpse at Beckett's new reality, he could still have some value in his right arm yet.
It's no Tommy John surgery, but a different baseball epidemic claimed another victim over the weekend.
Nolan Arenado was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Rockies on Saturday with a fractured left middle finger. Arenado fractured the finger sliding head-first into second base during Friday's game. Bryce Harper and Josh Hamilton, among others, have also fallen victim to the head-first slide this season.
Arenado's exploits this season are well known, but for a recap, the injury derails what was a massive breakout season for the 23-year-old. The third baseman was hitting .305/.333/.489 with six home runs and 28 RBI in 49 games before the injury, including a 28-game hitting streak that was the longest in Rockies history.
At this point, Arenado will keep the finger in a splint until May 30 when the Rockies travel to Cleveland, at which point he'll be evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon. It will then be decided whether the injury can be treated without surgery -- with a recovery time of approximately 4-6 weeks, according to Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger -- or whether he'll need surgery to place a pin in the finger.
Either way, the third base job in Colorado is wide open for the foreseeable future. Charlie Culberson has gotten the start at the hot corner the past two days, going 3-for-7 with a double and a run scored. D.J. LeMahieu, who has played predominantly at second base, could also see reps at third, with Josh Rutledge sliding in at the keystone. Rockies manager Walt Weiss will likely ride the hot hand until Arenado returns, but none of the options are exciting enough to explore in mixed leagues at present.
On a day in which Beckett stole the show, Adam Wainwright requested your attention as well.
Wainwright kept the Reds under wraps on Sunday night, striking out 12 over eight shutout innings in the Cardinals' 4-0 win. Wainwright walked one and gave up five hits, all singles, on the evening. With the win, Wainwright is 8-2 with a 1.67 ERA and 0.85 WHIP through 11 starts.
The performance itself is impressive, but it was a microcosm of a season that's lining up to be Wainwright's best in a career filled with great seasons. After Sunday's dominance, Wainwright leads the National League in wins (8) and innings pitched (81), while ranking among the league leaders in strikeouts, ERA and WHIP, among others.
In the three years in which he's won at least 19 games, Wainwright has never gotten to eight wins before June. With one more start in May, the right-hander has a shot at nine before the calendar turns.
Wainwright has gotten progressively better after returning from 2011 Tommy John surgery, but he may never have been better than he is right now. And that's saying something.
National League Quick Hits: The Mets are expected to place Eric Young Jr. on the disabled list prior to Monday's game with an undisclosed injury. The injury somewhat clears the logjam in the Mets' outfield for the time being ... Adam LaRoche returned from the disabled list on Saturday. He was back in the Nationals' lineup by Sunday's series finale ... Cody Asche landed on the DL with a strained left hamstring, clearing the way for top prospect Maikel Franco. Franco hasn't been recalled yet, but shrewd fantasy owners will add him now in anticipation of that call ... Evan Gattis homered twice on Sunday, his second multi-homer game of the season ... Madison Bumgarner struck out 10 over seven strong innings on Sunday. The southpaw has 75 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings this year.
American League Quick Hits: Josh Hamilton (thumb) remained out of the lineup for Triple-A Salt Lake over the weekend, causing some to wonder if the outfielder didn't suffer a serious setback in his rehab. Hamilton was jammed by a pitch on Thursday, resulting in his being sidelined. The Angels haven't updated his status or given a timeline for a return ... Mike Napoli was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with a sprained left ring finger. The Red Sox hope he can get over a slew of bumps and bruises with the 15 days off ... Miguel Cabrera was removed from Sunday's game due to a right hamstring cramp. The move was deemed precautionary by the club, and there's little concern that it will linger ... Dallas Keuchel did it again Sunday, twirling a complete-game victory over the Mariners. Keuchel was mortal, allowing an unearned run to score, but he limited the M's to four hits in his third straight dominant outing ... The Orioles acquired Nick Hundley from the Padres on Saturday. Hundley, along with Steve Clevenger, will fill in behind the plate in Matt Wieters' absence ... Shane Victorino hit the disabled list on Saturday with a strained right hamstring. He could be sidelined for a while, as it's a reinjury of the same hamstring that troubled him earlier this year ... Zach Britton earned his second save of the season on Sunday. He appears to be the closer of choice for O's manager Buck Showalter ... Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham returned to the Twins' active roster over the weekend. April feel-good story Chris Colabello was one of the players sent to Triple-A Rochester in the move.
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