Beckett is struggling this season
The Marlins' pitcher had success in last year's World Series, but now is 4-7.
MIAMI (AP) -- In photos that froze Josh Beckett's best moment, he's a grinning, screaming, cap-waving World Series hero riding the shoulders of his teammates and a wave of euphoria at Yankee Stadium last October.
The Florida Marlins' brash right-hander has since returned to earth with a humbling thud. Beckett is 4-7 this season with three stints on the disabled list and a newfound appreciation for the capricious nature of his work.
The second player selected in the 1999 draft, Beckett is still only 24 and still touted as a potential 20-game winner. But former teammate Brad Penny warned him three years ago that it wouldn't be easy.
"When I first got called up, Penny told me wins and losses are luck," Beckett said. "I said, 'You're full of it,' because I ended up with 18 wins that year between the minors leagues and the big leagues.
"But he was right. Everything has to go right."
Everything did last fall, when Beckett and the Marlins were at their best during a captivating run to the title.
With the Marlins facing elimination in Game 5 of the NL championship series, Beckett pitched a two-hit shutout against the Chicago Cubs. It was the first complete game of his career, and he threw another 13 days later, beating the Yankees 2-0 on five hits to win the World Series.
The recollection of Beckett's performance in New York still makes manager Jack McKeon smile.
"He was dominating," McKeon said. "I can remember watching his first pitch in that game and I said, 'They're in trouble."'
Beckett hasn't thrown a complete game since, partly because he hasn't stayed healthy. He strained a side muscle in June, and recurring skin trouble on the middle finger of his right hand sent him to the disabled list May 31 and again July 6.
That made it seven DL stints in three seasons for Beckett, which helps explain his career record of 21-24. His most persistent, perplexing ailment has been finger blisters that inspired him to try such remedies as pickle brine, uncooked rice and Superglue.
Beckett now suspects that the resin bag or something in the ball might be irritating his skin. He's made four starts without a recurrence but goes into Sunday's game at Milwaukee without a victory since May 20.
McKeon said he expected 15 or 16 wins from Beckett this season, and the same from A.J. Burnett and Dontrelle Willis. They'll all fall short, but McKeon noted that such hard-throwing youngsters as Kerry Wood and Mark Prior have struggled this season, too.
"It takes guys a while," McKeon said. "Beckett's still learning. He hasn't put it all together yet. But what he did against the Yankees is what he's capable of."
Another indication is his strikeout- to-innings ratio -- 97 to 89 1-3 this season, 386 to 363 for his career.
"He had great stuff," the Cardinals' Jim Edmonds said. "It amazes me to see him every time he goes out there."
Beckett's outing Tuesday against St. Louis was perhaps his best since he became a World Series MVP. Facing the top hitting team in the National League, he pitched six innings and allowed just one hit -- a sixth-inning homer by Albert Pujols.
The Cardinals won 2-1 in 10 innings, but the way they raved about Beckett underscored his potential.
"He has one of the best young arms in the league," Pujols said. "And he's going to get better and better."
Beckett found little consolation in his performance.
"It's still terrible," he said. "There's nothing good about losing."
His frustration has been compounded by the struggles of his teammates. The Marlins led the NL East for most of the season's first three months, but a prolonged slump sent them sinking below .500 and likely out of contention.
"We had a lot of things go our way last year," Beckett said. "That's why people don't win the World Series in back-to-back years -- you don't get the same breaks."
Even if you have a great team, you still have to have some breaks, and now the breaks aren't going our way."
No breaks for the Marlins, no breakthrough for Beckett. Despite the disappointing season, he still enjoys the notoriety resulting from his heroics last fall. The endorsement offers have fallen off, but come October look for him in GQ and Esquire.
He'd rather be in another World Series.
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