Josh Beckett quietly logging very solid April

LOS ANGELES -- The record reads 13-11 after Friday's 5-3, 11-inning loss to the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium. The Los Angeles Dodgers are still basically tied for first place in a still-soft NL West in which nobody is likely to run away from them.

The calendar still hasn't flipped to May. Clayton Kershaw still hasn't pitched a game for the big club. Not in this country, at least. Zack Greinke is still an ace, and Juan Uribe's 2013 resurrection has sustained itself into 2014.

Clearly there's no reason to panic.

Still, the optics aren't exactly stellar.

A defense many figured could be soft has been. Brian Wilson has shown little of last year's form coming out of the bullpen. Offensively, save for a coming-around Yasiel Puig (2-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs Friday), the crowded outfield has been a sinkhole, with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford all hovering at, around, or slightly below .200.

Overall, the Dodgers just aren't scoring -- or winning -- against anyone except the Arizona Diamondbacks.

So with all of those other big stories to talk about, it's no wonder that a quietly strong April from Josh Beckett hasn't earned a ton of attention.

After a choppy first outing, Beckett didn't give up a run over his next two and was, apart from two bad pitches both turned into solo home runs, absolutely dominant Friday night. Eight innings, four hits, six strikeouts, no walks, 99 pitches and 70 strikes. On the season, his ERA is down to 2.45. Over his last 18 innings, Beckett has given up two runs.

"It's Josh Beckett of old," said Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. "It's like him when I was in Boston."

That guy would be handy, to say the least.

After nerve problems kept Beckett off the mound after mid-May last season, little was expected of him heading into 2014 ... to the point many fans wondered why the Dodgers hadn't figured out a way to dump whatever part of his nearly $16 million salary another team might take.

But after an abbreviated spring training gummed up by a thumb injury, Beckett said Friday he's seeing real progress.

"This was a step in the right direction for me, personally. Just to show myself I can do some things I haven't done in a while," he said. "Pitching innings. I haven't been up and down six times in [a long time]."

His breaking ball was effective, but Beckett said that wasn't the reason he was able to keep a stout Rockies lineup off balance.

"I had a good feel for my changeup, too," he said. "I threw a lot of breaking balls, too, but the changeups and splits I was throwing, most of them were quality. I got some easier outs on some changeups."

He was pitching well enough that manager Don Mattingly allowed Beckett to work his way out of a jam in the eighth with the score tied 2-2, despite not having pitched that deep into a game in over a year.

"It was nice that Donny felt good enough about me that he came out and told me it was my game, one way or the other," Beckett said.

Beckett was hesitant to spin the night too positively toward himself, since the Dodgers didn't win the game. Still, he understands the significance of a performance like Friday's.

"I'll just take this as a stepping stone, and keep pushing forward," he said.