Beckett a week away from throwing a ball again

All-Star right-hander Josh Beckett, a cornerstone of the

Dodgers’ blockbuster trade with Boston a year ago, has declared

himself ahead of schedule after thoracic outlet syndrome surgery

and expects to be ready for the start of spring training.

Beckett made his remarks on Sunday – the anniversary of the

trade – before watching his current and former clubs conclude their

three-game interleague series.

The three-time All-Star, who flew in from Dallas on Friday to

visit his teammates – past and present – expects to go back to

Texas on Wednesday to begin a throwing program that will include

three or four sessions off a mound. In another couple of weeks, he

will return to Los Angeles to get re-examined by Dodgers team

physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

”There’s still some hurdles to get over, but I feel really good

for where I’m at,” Beckett said. ”We were looking at eight weeks

before I started throwing again, and I beat that by about two

weeks. So we’re ahead of schedule right now. I don’t think anybody

was expecting that, so everything’s going good. But I think we’ll

know more probably when I begin my bullpens. December’s going to be

long, so I’d like to get over those mental blocks now. It’s

something to look forward to.”

Beckett, was 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA in his first eight starts this

season before going in the disabled list in mid-May because of a

groin strain. He then experienced a recurrence of nerve irritation

in his right arm, causing numbness in his pitching and leading to

the surgery that finished him for the season.

”Basically, they cut the rib out of my spine, which was

basically where all my the pain was – in my upper back,” said

Beckett, who turned 33 in May and has two years and $30 million

left on the contract he originally signed with the Red Sox. ”Once

I got closure on the fact that the surgery was the way we were

going to go, my frustration level went down a lot because I at

least had something to look forward to. The second week after the

surgery, I was doing stuff that a lot of people were doing at four

weeks after. ”

Not being with the club during their epic 46-11 run that gave

them a 9 1-2 game lead over Arizona entering Sunday hasn’t dampened

Beckett’s enthusiasm.

”I’m not frustrated. I’m glad they’re we’re winning,” he said.

”I’m genuinely happy for everybody – the fans and the ownership

that put this thing together after they bought this team. I got to

watch a lot of games on TV, and they’re obviously an exciting team

to watch. I think that seeing 50,000 people standing through nine

innings is a lot of fun. It’s an exciting time to be a Dodger fan

or a Dodger player, or a Dodger owner – or a Dodger DL guy.

”It was like Christmas coming in here two days ago and seeing

all the guys,” he added. ”Stan (Stan Conte, the Dodgers’ vice

president of medical services) caught me in the training room

yesterday, throwing a ball up in the air. I mean, I’m not getting

all crazy with it right now, but I’m pretty excited about where I’m

at.”