It was only Game 5 of their spring training schedule, but it was easily the Dodgers' most encouraging day of 2014.
Right-hander Josh Beckett is coming back from a somewhat unusual surgery, one with a limited and uncertain history. He had a rib removed last summer to relieve pressure on a nerve that made his pitching arm and fingers feel numb.
Unsure how he would return this spring, in the off-season the Dodgers made an attempt to sign Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, made overtures to Bronson Arroyo and did sign left-hander Paul Maholm.
Sunday afternoon in a game called after nine innings with the scored tied 3-3 against the Padres at Camelback Ranch, Beckett made his first appearance of the spring. And if it was only two innings, it was nonetheless very hopeful, if not plain impressive.
Beckett, 33, allowed just a ground-ball single, showing remarkable control for a pitcher who last threw in a competitive game May 13. He struck out three and did not walk a batter. He threw not just fastballs, but also his breaking stuff for strikes.
For Beckett, who admitted to some unusual pregame nerves for a veteran pitcher, it had to be a significant relief. And keep him penciled in as the Dodgers' fifth starter.
Maholm, now Beckett's competition for the rotation spot, followed with two scoreless innings of his own. The left-hander allowed one hit, without a walk or strikeout.
The Dodgers have only 20 days before they start the season in Australia, so with a compacted exhibition schedule, each game carries slightly more significance than normal. And perhaps none more than for Beckett.
Beckett was 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA last season before succumbing to surgery.