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Dodgers' pitcher Josh Beckett a week away from throwing

Photo: AP

Josh Beckett hasn't pitched for the Dodgers since going on the DL in May.

LOS ANGELES (AP) 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."

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