Josh Beckett followed A.J. Burnett through the then-Florida Marlins minor league system as the franchise’s next prized arm on the fast-track to the big leagues.
He might now be following his elder on the path to career rejuvenation.
The former teammates turned AL East rivals now find themselves pitching effectively back in the NL in the latter stages of their careers. They’ll face off Sunday in Philadelphia in their first head-to-head matchup in five years as the Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers complete a three-game series.
Burnett debuted with Florida in 1999 as a 22-year-old. Beckett did so in 2001 at age 21. In 2003, an injured Burnett watched as his young teammate guided the Marlins to their second World Series title.
They’ve since faced each other four times with Beckett owning a 1-0 record and 4.62 ERA while Burnett is 0-1 with a 6.52. Both have two team wins, and the last matchup was a duel to remember.
On Aug. 7, 2009, with Beckett’s Boston Red Sox chasing Burnett’s New York Yankees for the division lead, Beckett pitched seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball while Burnett only allowed a leadoff single in 7 2-3 scoreless innings. The game stretched on for 5 hours, 33 minutes, and New York won 2-0 in 15 innings on Alex Rodriguez’s walkoff homer.
Until May 13, it had seemed about as long ago since Beckett (2-1, 2.89 ERA) last earned a big league victory. The right-hander has won consecutive starts after his previous win came on Sept. 30, 2012.
In Tuesday’s 9-4 win over the New York Mets, he surrendered four runs and eight hits while striking out six in five-plus innings.
Beckett has struggled at Citizens Bank Park, going 3-3 with a 5.40 ERA in six starts. Of current ballparks at which he’s made at least five starts, his ERA is only higher at Rogers Centre.
Burnett (3-3, 3.32) was also the beneficiary of some run support in his last outing. He allowed three runs, three hits with four walks in five innings in Tuesday’s 6-5 victory in Miami.
His 30 walks and 4.53 per nine innings are among the most in the majors, which has led him to describe his recent work with a reluctant term.
"I’m tired of hearing the word ‘battled,’" Burnett said. "But it’s the truth, so you’ve got to say it."
The last time out against the Dodgers on April 22, his control was much better, walking one while allowing two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 3-2, 10-inning win at Dodger Stadium. He is 4-4 with a 3.63 ERA in 11 career starts against Los Angeles.
The Phillies (21-25) won 5-3 Saturday to end a three-game skid.
Ben Revere answered manager Ryne Sandberg’s call for production at the top by going 4-for-4 with three runs in his first game batting leadoff since May 14.
Revere is 5 for 6 in the series and raised his career average versus the Dodgers to .522 in 46 at-bats.
No. 2 hitter Jimmy Rollins extended his hitting streak to seven, and Sandberg sees plenty of offensive possibilities if they can both get on base.
"Two good baserunners in the one and two spot," Sandberg told the team’s official website. "Jimmy has done a good job in both places. But Ben can get on base and get hot as far as creating a steal opportunity."
The Dodgers (26-24) need a victory to conclude a nine-game road trip with a winning record.
Adrian Gonzalez is 0 for 12 in the last three games and 2 for 12 against Burnett.
Yasiel Puig, though, is 5 for 7 in the series and has reached base in 25 straight games, over which he’s batting .414 with eight home runs and 28 RBIs.