LOS ANGELES -- If you found yourself frustrated -- or, perhaps, just bored -- watching Josh Beckett slowly, sloooooooooooooowly, put the Los Angeles Dodgers in an early hole Wednesday night, you were not alone.
Hours after he had left the game (and we do mean hours), Beckett admitted his month-long cold spell to start the season has begun to wear on him. It's May now, he's still winless and Wednesday night was his worst start yet -- a clunker that set the Dodgers on course for a 7-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies and took nearly four hours to complete.
Beckett (0-4, 5.24 ERA) once didn't really care about the size of the umpire's strike zone. He could throw a 95-mph fastball or some nasty breaking ball for a strike and get back to the dugout fast enough to keep his team warm. Now, when the umpire isn't giving him the corners to work with, he seems to spend hours trying to figure out ways to get hitters out. So far, he has come up with a lot of wrong answers.
As hard as it is to watch, imagine what it must be like to play behind.
"You can't leave your guys out there standing like I did in the first inning for like 40-45 minutes," Beckett said.
Beckett worked hard to refine his changeup this spring and he has thrown that pitch more than ever before in his career, about 18 percent of the time this season. But that alone hasn't made up for a fastball that has dipped about 4 mph over the past several seasons and a curveball that is only sporadically effective.
"Apparently, [hitters] have made an adjustment to me. It's a pretty good one, so I have to do something," Beckett said. "I can't just keep running out there and pitching like [crap]."
It's not as if the Dodgers should be panicking about their starting pitching, though they've churned through nine starters in a month. Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu are working at the top of their games. Zack Greinke should be back in another month or so. Matt Magill looked like a major-league caliber arm while making his debut.
But as they set sail into a seemingly endless schedule, it would be reassuring to see Beckett settle into something like a comfortable groove. Though he got batted around most of last season in Boston, many people thought he would thrive in the National League. He looked solid late last year for the Dodgers but has failed to get through six innings in four of his six starts this year.
"It starts to creep on you, it's one outing and then it's another outing and then it's getting to be a little bit of a hole as you think about trying to climb out of that," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "It's not going to be one start and you're back to .500. You have to pitch good for a while."
Beckett has half of that equation down. He pitched for quite a while Wednesday night even if he didn't get through many innings. The good part is a work in progress.