FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -Josh Beckett has been dominant so far during spring training, even if he has faced mostly college kids and minor leaguers.
The Red Sox ace struck out five and allowed two hits in three innings Monday in a ``B'' game against the Minnesota Twins.
``It feels like we're in the loser's bracket of an AAU tournament,'' Beckett joked of the small crowd, which watched for free during the 10 a.m. start. ``I spent my whole life in the loser's bracket of AAU tournaments - because I was hitting fourth, probably.''
He gave up a leadoff single by Denard Span and an unearned run when he couldn't handle a flip from Sean Casey at first base in the first inning.
Beckett threw 26 of 53 pitches in the first, when he plunked Jon Knott to load the bases with no outs. He recovered with a pair of strikeouts, getting Jose Morales to wave at a high fastball to get out of the jam.
``I've pitched in games during the season with that many people, unfortunately,'' Beckett said. ``I thought I threw the ball really well today. I was still a little too strong in the first inning, left some balls up.''
Mike Timlin tossed a scoreless fifth with a strikeout, while prospect Michael Bowden, regarded as one of the best arms in the Red Sox system, threw two scoreless innings with a strikeout and a walk.
Outfielder Joe Thurston, who spent the bulk of last season with Philadelphia's Triple-A affiliate, went 2-for-4 with an RBI-triple and scored the tying run on a passed ball in the sixth inning.
Also, Bartolo Colon threw 42 fastballs and changeups to backup catcher Doug Mirabelli during an 11-minute bullpen session Monday.
``For not being on the mound for 3 1/2 weeks, he threw the ball to both sides of the plate. He found the glove well,'' pitching coach John Farrell said. ``He got through his front side to allow him to really carry the fastball through the zone. I'd say there was a few pitches that approached 90 (mph).''
Colon, who agreed to a minor league contract on Feb. 25, hopes to pitch as early as March 9 against the Dodgers. Francona and Farrell have said the March 15 game against the Reds was a more likely target.
``In terms of pure arm strength, he's in a very good place,'' Farrell said. ``It's a matter of repetition. Once we get into the up-down of the innings simulation and really getting into games, that will be a very clear indication of where he's at as far as season readiness.''
Colon, the second-winningest pitcher in baseball from 1998-2005, has won just seven games over the past two seasons has he dealt with shoulder and elbow injuries. Colon is scheduled to throw another bullpen session Wednesday, and could throw one more before he begins to face hitters in batting practice, Farrell said.
``He's definitely motivated, no doubt about that,'' Farrell said. ``He's been outstanding when it comes to following our lead and directions. He's been very compliant.''

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