Josh Beckett had an up-and-down two-plus years as a Dodger, interrupted by injuries, but should be remembered fondly for his time with Los Angeles. Especially for his one last great moment in the sun.
Beckett hasn't pitched for the Dodgers since Aug. 3, sidelined with a hip injury that will require surgery. The 34-year-old right-hander confirmed to reporters on Friday that his 2014 season was done, and that he is mulling retirement.
Manager Don Mattingly has said at numerous times this season how difficult it was for Beckett to simply get ready for each start.
"I think in between starts are a battle for Josh," Mattingly said in July. "That's just the way it is, and I don't think that's going to change."
Beckett elaborated on Friday.
"It's been weighing heavy on me," Beckett explained, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "It takes four hours of [therapy] work to do two hours on the field. A lot of people deal with that. At some point you decide, is it worth getting ready for another season? I feel best the day I pitch. In between days are very draining."
In 2013, Beckett only made eight starts, dealing with a nerve problem that was traced to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Beckett had surgery to relieve nerve pressure but it required removing a rib. Coming into 2014, Beckett's future was very much in question.
The Dodgers placed Beckett on the disabled list three times this season, twice for a left hip impingement and once for a thumb contusion that pushed his first start of the year into the season's second week.
After a shaky opening start against the Tigers, Beckett was great. He went on a 16-start stretch over 2½ months that saw him go 6-5 with a 1.99 ERA, with 90 strikeouts and 31 walks in 99⅓ innings. In nine of those 16 starts Beckett allowed zero or one run, with the peak coming on May 25 in Philadelphia.
Beckett had just about seen it all in baseball. He was the top prospect in the game at one point as a young fireballer out of Texas. He led an upstart Marlins team to a World Series win at age 23 in 2003, finishing it off with a five-hit shutout in Yankee Stadium. Four years later he was the ace of a Red Sox team that won their second World Series in four years, allowing just four runs in his four playoff starts, all wins.
But in Beckett's 14-year major league career he had never thrown a no-hitter.
Until the Dodgers visited the Phillies for a weekend series, ending on May 25, the day before Memorial Day and the final day of a nine-game road trip.
Beckett needed 39 pitches with two walks to get through the first two innings, but he recovered quite nicely to retire his next 23 straight batters faced, the streak ending on a two-out walk in the ninth inning to Jimmy Rollins. But Beckett on his career-high 128th pitch struck out Chase Utley to finish his no-hitter, the first for the Dodgers since Hideo Nomo in 1996.
"Donnie and I talked about it. I wasn’t coming out of the game if I had to throw 200 pitches," Beckett said, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.
On the season Beckett ended up with 20 starts, which was probably more than could have been reasonably expected of him heading into the year. He was 6-6 with a 2.88 ERA, with 107 strikeouts and 39 walks in 115⅔ innings.
His strikeout rate of 22.5 percent in 2014 was slightly higher than his career mark of 22.2 percent and a height he hadn't reached since 2011 with the Red Sox.
In the end, in just over two years since joining the Dodgers in the blockbuster Punto Trade in August 2012, Beckett's numbers with Los Angeles look more like a single full season: 35 starts, 202 innings, 186 strikeouts, 68 walks, a 3.39 ERA, a 108 ERA+, an 8-14 record, and 2.4 Wins Above Replacement (Baseball-Reference version).
The Dodgers paid Beckett roughly $35 million for that production, which doesn't look good no matter how you slice it.
But that Beckett was able to salvage something this season for one last hurrah is commendable, especially with all the hard work he went through just to get back on the mound.