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Fifth-starter competitors bouncing back nicely

Beckett, Maholm, Fife turn in solid efforts as each returns from injury

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- No. 2 starter Zack Greinke is sidelined, but the Dodgers had to like the first exhibition looks at their fifth, sixth and seventh starters on Sunday.

Josh Beckett, Paul Maholm and Stephen Fife -- each on a reduced throwing regime this spring because of various physical issues -- pitched two innings apiece against San Diego. Beckett and Maholm went scoreless, Fife allowed a run.

Beckett's first outing against opposing hitters was a significant step as he returns from serious surgery to remove a rib and address thoracic outlet syndrome, which cut short the career of Chris Carpenter.

"I didn't sleep good [Saturday] night, knowing I was facing competition and wondering, am I going to do something different?" Beckett said. "I was definitely nervous and everything, but it went good. Mentally, I had to slow myself down. I was ready 25 minutes before the game started. Right now the big thing is to get over the mental thing."

Beckett said he's been a little surprised with his smooth recovery considering that few pitchers have returned from the rib procedure.

"I feel like I put in the work but, yeah, I am [surprised]," he said. "Some of it is the stuff I did physically in the offseason. I didn't go to the beach. A lot of rehab for nine weeks after surgery, a couple weeks off, then back at it. It's paying off, but there's part of me that I can't get out of my head, when will it recur? I kept waiting for a fallback and didn't have one.

"Carpenter told me how invasive the surgery was. It is. They remove the rib from the spine. There was no position I was comfortable in and it takes a while to go away. It felt like somebody's got a knife in your back."

Manager Don Mattingly said Beckett warmed up sharp and took the command into the game. He struck out three and allowed one hit.

"He looked free and easy," said San Diego manager Bud Black. "He threw a couple breaking balls. He looked fine for the first outing."

Maholm, signed as camp opened for starting depth, allowed one hit in his first appearance after missing a session of throwing batting practice two weeks ago with mild elbow tenderness.

"It feels good," Maholm said of the elbow. "It felt good to get pitch sequences and face their top four in the lineup during the regular season."

Despite being a 10-game winner with Atlanta last year, Maholm tailed off with elbow problems in September, was left off the post-eason roster and settled for a one-year contract as a free agent.

"He's over the hurdle," said manager Don Mattingly. "He showed he still knows what he's doing."

Maholm, a career starter, again declined to get drawn into a controversy over his role if Beckett is healthy and starting.

"My whole thing since I turned professional is to pitch well and let them make the decisions," he said.

Fife allowed one hit and one walk that led to the run. He has been on a reduced throwing schedule in hopes of preventing the shoulder bursitis that nagged him most of last season.

Before the game, pitching prospect Zach Lee threw two innings of a simulated game to hitters Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis. It was the first time Lee faced hitters this spring after straining a lat muscle during the Young Guns minicamp in February.

Mattingly said there still was no announcement on the diagnosis of pitching prospect Ross Stripling, who is believed to have an elbow ligament injury. Mattingly said Stripling will probably get a second opinion before a course of treatment is chosen.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for
Read More: Los Angeles Dodgers, Josh Beckett, Paul Maholm, Stephen Fife