Beckett scratched with back spasms

BOSTON -- Almost on the heels of Jon Lester's potentially frightening line drive off his right knee on Friday night comes news that Josh Beckett was scratched from making his scheduled start on Monday night.

Beckett called manager Terry Francona on Sunday night after the club returned from New York and told him his back was tight. The club immediately made the decision to pass over Beckett in favor of reliever Michael Bowden, who made making his second career major league start.

"It's his upper left side, which is good,'' Francona said before Boston lost 11-5 in a rain-shortened game. "This time of year guys feel it a lot. It wasn't a real difficult decision and [Beckett] kind of agreed. He could have pitched."

Francona said that instead of Beckett being pushed back a day or two, he would likely skip this start entirely and pitch on his next scheduled day, Saturday night against Cleveland. Beckett is a club-best 16-6 in 31 starts this season.

As for Lester, he threw his scheduled side session a few hours before Monday night's game against Toronto and reported no discomfort. He also proclaimed himself physically ready to make his last scheduled start of the regular season on Thursday night against Cleveland.

"Everything's good, everything's fine,'' said Lester, who threw about 55 pitches in the bullpen under the watchful eye of pitching coach John Farrell. "It was all dependent on what happened today. Based on how today went, I will make my start on Thursday."

Lester is 14-8 with a 3.52 ERA. Should the Red Sox make the playoffs, there has been increased speculation that he, and not Beckett, would start Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels, scheduled to start one week after Lester's next start. Entering Monday's game, Boston had a six-game lead over the Texas Rangers in the AL wild-card race.

Pedro Gomez is a reporter for ESPN.