LOS ANGELES -- Recovering from a career-threatening operation and reinventing himself as a pitcher was only part of Josh Beckett's comeback.
Now comes what could be the greatest obstacle: maintenance.
Beckett made one of his least effective starts of the season Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, giving up five runs and six hits in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 10-3 loss against the Cleveland Indians.
However, based on manager Don Mattingly's description of the days leading up to the game, it sounded as if the simple act of standing on the mound was a significant accomplishment for the 34-year-old former hard thrower.
"Josh is always the guy that, in between starts, we worry about," Mattingly said. "He battles every time to get ready for the next one."
There are times Beckett doesn't throw bullpen sessions between starts.
"He's got over 2,000 innings on him," Mattingly said. "Without saying he's old, he's got some mileage on him."
Beckett's issues are unrelated to the off-season surgery he underwent to address a nerve problem, Mattingly said.
"I haven't heard anything about the surgery or his arm or anything," Mattingly said. "It's been general soreness."
Including some tightness in his hip.
The Dodgers were concerned enough about Beckett's status that they rearranged the rotation of their triple-A affiliate to ensure they would have an emergency starter available for Tuesday if necessary.
Beckett wasn't nearly as sharp as he was when he pitched seven scoreless innings in a victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday.
He encountered trouble in the first inning, giving up a one-out single to Asdrubal Cabrera that was immediately followed by a run-scoring double by Michael Brantley. Lonnie Chisenhall hit a two-run home run to increase the Indians' lead to 3-0.
The Dodgers scored two runs in the bottom half of the inning, but a two-run double by Nick Swisher in the third inning extended the Indians' lead to 5-2.
Beckett was removed in the bottom of the fifth inning when Monday night hero Clint Robinson pinch-hit for him with two outs and the bases loaded. Robinson struck out and the Dodgers continued to trail, 5-3.
Beckett walked only one batter, which continued a historic run for the Dodgers.
Dodgers starting pitchers have walked two batters or less in their last 35 games, the longest such streak in the National League since at least 1914, the Elias Sports Bureau said.
"There's no defense for a walk," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "That's what's great about our staff. They're all really strong command guys, but they don't pitch in the middle of the plate, either.
"They're really skilled guys who can throw on the edges and get ahead in the count. It's really a lot more fun to catch, too."
The Dodgers were expecting Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu to pitch like this.
But the two oldest members of the rotation, Beckett and Dan Haren, have performed surprisingly well. Haren is 33. He is 8-4 with 3.57 earned-run average.
The absence of walks has been particularly important for Haren and Beckett, who don't throw as hard as they once did and are prone to serving up home runs. Haren has given up the most home runs on the Dodgers with 16; Beckett is tied for second with 12.
"The lack of walks, obviously, you're not giving up any free bases, you're not using five, six pitches to get there," Mattingly said.
"You're basically making guys earn their bases. It's our way of saying, 'We don't give away out, we don't give away anything for free.' "
(c)2014 Los Angeles Times
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services