Josh Beckett May Surprise Us All


Zach Lee is nursing a lat strain, but the pitching prospect threw off the mound on Thursday after being sidelined for awhile. Paul Maholm has some soreness in his elbow, which is never a good thing to hear. Maholm is downplaying the seriousness of the elbow tenderness, but he is one of only two pitchers in camp yet to throw batting practice. Brandon League is the other one, and the reliever has also been battling a lat strain. Maholm, who insists that he hasn’t missed much time, would be pushed to the bullpen if Josh Beckett should be ready to pitch in April.

Feb 20, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett poses for a portrait during photo day at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Beckett is ahead of Maholm in terms of throwing time so far this Spring. Beckett seems to be on track to be able to pitch sooner than I had anticipated after rehabbing from thoracic outlet syndrome which included a surgical procedure which removed one of his ribs. Beckett says he feels good, and he hasn’t had a setback that we know of. Maholm on the other hand had elbow issues last September in Atlanta, but the Dodgers signed him anyways in order to insure they had a veteran starting pitcher out of the fifth spot in case Beckett did not bounce back.

The thing is, Maholm isn’t very good. Even if his elbow issues aren’t anything serious, it doesn’t give me much confidence in his ability to stay healthy this season should he be placed on the 25-man roster and pitch out of that fifth spot behind Dan Haren. Now I’m hoping Beckett successfully returns and is able to contribute to this team if only as a way to forgo any Paul Maholm mediocrity. Beckett is no doubt a better pitcher than Maholm when healthy, but both pitchers are in decline and battling the demons of innings which their arms have absorbed over the years. Maholm has 9 Major League seasons under his belt, and Beckett has been pitching for 13 years since coming up with the Florida Marlins back in 2001.

Isn’t it time to go with youth? The Dodgers have such a strong rotation aside from the fifth spot, and I don’t see why they couldn’t go with Ross Striping or Zach Lee instead of Maholm should Beckett fail. Stephen Fife is always another option, even though his shoulder bursitis seems to be a bothersome reoccurrence. Fife would be a solid fifth starter for most teams, and I see nothing wrong with going with Fife if Beckett and Maholm don’t pan out.

Do we really expect either Beckett or Maholm to be healthy for the entire season? No, no they won’t. Maholm doesn’t even look like he’ll get out of Spring Training right now should this elbow issue be anything more than common soreness. I just don’t see why the Dodgers really needed to sign Maholm anyways even if they were unsure about Beckett. I guess they needed to really really make sure they had enough starting pitching, which they do.

Chad Billingsley is also rehabbing well, and he should be in the mix soon, so even if both Beckett and Maholm pitch themselves

Feb 10, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Josh Beckett (61) throws from the bullpen during camp at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

out of the equation (I’m leaning toward this eventual outcome), then Bills could slot back into the rotation. JP Hoornstra of the Daily News cited Billingsley’s projected return to be late April/early May which is even earlier than I previously had thought. Of course if Billingsley isn’t ready and both Beckett and Maholm are duds, then the Dodgers would have to go with a Fife, Stripling, or Lee fifth day. Between Beckett, Bills, and Maholm, there’s two who are coming back from major surgeries and one with “elbow issues.” Chances are the Dodgers dip into their pitching prospect pool this season, and I’m all for it.

Seth Rosin will be an interesting story this Spring, since the starter could be a dark horse to make the team. Rosin, who was picked up by the Dodgers from the Mets after the Rule 5 Draft, would have to be on the 25-man roster the entire season otherwise he’d be offered back to New York. Ned Colletti seemed intrigued when he spoke to the media about Rosin during the Winter Development Program in January. Rosin would have to impress in order to squeeze in ahead of some of the other pitchers.

According to Mark Saxon of ESPN, Rosin has been working with Chuck Crim, the bullpen coach, on using more of his lower body in his delivery. The 25-year old has yet to pitch above AA. Last year with the AA-Reading Fightin Phils Rosin went 9-6 with a 4.33 ERA and 96 strikeouts and 35 walks over 26 games (23 starts) and 126 2/3 innings.

My biggest surprise this Spring could be the successful return of Josh Beckett. The right-hander threw to live hitters Wednesday, and he feels like his old self. Perhaps his performance did suffer from the thoracic outlet syndrome for longer than disclosed. With not many players having been able to return from such a procedure or documented, it’s hard to know how Beckett would respond to the operation.

With Beckett’s continued progress, it will be interesting to see how this Maholm situation pans out. The Dodgers should not waste a roster spot on him while pushing someone out of the bullpen. Unless Brandon League is not healthy, then Paul Maholm wouldn’t be too bad as a long-reliever. I’d still prefer Jose Dominguez or Chris Withrow over Paul Maholm who has never pitched in relief.

Spring Training is right up Josh Beckett’s alley. The days are long and slow…