LOS ANGELES--From the numbness he felt in the fingers to the career-threatening operation that followed, Josh Beckett has made the events of last year seem as if they were something of the distant past.
The former All-Star has emerged from extreme uncertainty to not only pitch, but pitch well.
But as far as Beckett has come, he isn't ready to celebrate his return.
"I think reflection's for the end of the season," Beckett said. "I'll take this as a steppingstone and just keep pushing forward."
Beckett made his most recent start Tuesday in the Dodgers' 7-1 victory over the Miami Marlins, whom he limited to four hits over 61/3 innings. The only run charged to him was unearned and wasn't scored until the seventh inning.
Winless last season, Beckett (1-1) earned his first victory since beating the Colorado Rockies on Sept. 30, 2012. The victory ended a winless streak at 14.
Beckett, who turns 34 on Thursday, lowered his earned-run average to 2.38.
Beckett's dependability has been particularly important, considering Clayton Kershaw was sidelined for more than a month because of a back muscle, Hyun-Jin Ryu is on the disabled list because of shoulder inflammation and Chad Billingsley's return from reconstructive elbow surgery has taken longer than expected.
"It's been a nice surprise," Manager Don Mattingly said.
By this time last year, Beckett had pitched his last game of the season. He tried to come back, but couldn't. He underwent surgery in July to remove a rib. The operation was designed to relieve pressure on a nerve.
Mattingly said Tuesday he didn't know how much he could count on Beckett. Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis underwent a similar procedure and only pitched in a handful of games after.
"That surgery, there hasn't been enough of those to have any true indication," Mattingly said. "With this surgery, you don't really know what's coming."
The only significant setback Beckett had in spring training was unrelated to the surgery: He caught his right thumb on a door and sprained it.
That forced Beckett to start the season on the disabled list. But once activated, he has looked durable.
His start Tuesday was his seventh of the season.
He made the longest start of any Dodgers pitcher this season, when he pitched eighth innings April 25 in a no-decision against the Rockies.
His fastball has frequently been clocked at 93 mph.
What has impressed Mattingly most is Beckett's decreased reliance on his fastball. No longer armed with a high-90s fastball used to overpower hitters, Beckett has reinvented himself, throwing more curveballs and changeups early in counts.
Mattingly said the pitcher he sees today is considerably different from the pitcher the Dodgers acquired in a multiplayer trade with the Boston Red Sox in 2012.
"It's his growth," Mattingly said. "He has three different pitches that he can throw for a strike and they all kind of work in unison with each other. He's been more willing to use his other stuff a lot more."
Beckett displayed that ability to pitch backward Wednesday when escaping a fourth-inning threat.
With the game still scoreless, Giancarlo Stanton reached base on an infield single and promptly stole second base. Stanton advanced to third base on a groundout by Casey McGehee.
With one out, Beckett struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He walked Garrett Jones, then struck out Marcell Ozuna to end the inning.
His first pitches to Saltalamacchia and Ozuna were changeups.
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