Waiting game over for Beckett and Sox

SEATTLE -- Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett sat on a leather couch in the visitors clubhouse Thursday afternoon at Safeco Field comfortable as could be. He was reading a real estate magazine and chatting with teammate Dustin Pedroia.

The only real piece of property Beckett is concerned with these days is the circular mound of clay in the middle of a baseball diamond.

The right-hander returns to his one-man island on Friday when he makes his first start since injuring his lower back while pitching in New York on May 18. He'll face the Seattle Mariners in the second of four games here, and the Red Sox are hoping their patience pays dividends and Beckett returns to form for the remainder of the season.

"That's the whole idea and that's why we've been very patient," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "We want to get him back, not in name but in production. The way we're doing it gives us the best chance. He might not throw a no-hitter [Friday]. [Clay] Buchholz had a little bit of rust [Wednesday], and Beckett hasn't pitched in a while in a big league game. He's got good arm strength and real good arm speed. He'll work his way back, which is what we need."

While Beckett, who does not talk the day before he starts, has been patient, it's clear he's been chomping at the bit.

"A lot, which is a good sign," Francona said. "You can hear him in the dugout making stupid comments. He's ready, which is good."

He signed a four-year contract extension worth $68 million on April 5, and before the injury he was 1-1 with a 7.29 ERA in eight starts for Boston this season.

"I think he tried to live up to his contract," Francona said. "Not in a bad way, he's just a conscientious kid. For whatever reason, regardless of who you are, every year coming out of the gate when the bell rings you got to get it going. Sometimes it takes some guys a little longer, and then his season got interrupted."

Francona thought the game in which Beckett injured his lower back when pitching on a wet mound at Yankee Stadium featured Beckett's best stuff all season.

"This game can humble you and sometimes you're a little unlucky. If you're good enough, it'll even out," Francona said.

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.