Beckett not apologizing for golfing

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Beckett not apologizing for golfing

What, you were expecting a contrite Josh Beckett?

A sheepish, if-I-had-it-to-do-over-again Josh Beckett?

No such luck.

But this shouldn't be much of a surprise.

Beckett may be evolving as a pitcher, but his personality remains unchanged: defiant, stubborn, and, literally and figuratively, unapologetic.

In other words, if you were expecting some sort of mea culpa, you came to the wrong place. That's not Beckett.

It wasn't Beckett last February when he met with the media for the first time since the chicken-and-beer details were made public last October. And it wasn't Beckett Thursday night in the wake of an embarrassing start against the Cleveland Indians.

Of course, Beckett has had embarrassing starts before. Every pitcher has. But this one came with one added ingredient: spectacularly bad timing.

Many fans were already outraged after a report placed Beckett at an area golf course last Thursday, a day after the Red Sox announced that he would not make his next scheduled start, slated for Saturday.

The Sox reasoned that Beckett was experiencing some soreness in his lat muscle, and was skipping a start as a precaution.

Ever since, the Red Sox have attempted to nuance that explanation to death, with manager Bobby Valentine claiming twice this week that, well, technically, Beckett wasn't really injured, but was merely suffering from a physical issue.

And it strains credulity that the Sox would have, as has been theorized in some parts, skipped Beckett for the sole purpose of mollifying Aaron Cook, who forced his way onto the roster a week ago thanks to an opt-out in his contract.

Either way, the club publicly introduced the notion that Beckett wasn't 100 percent, and now, both the Sox and the pitcher himself have to live with that explanation, however tortured it has become.

Beckett had to know that he would be asked about the golf outing, and sure enough, after a few questions about his outing, they came at him.

He was not unprepared, either. In what sounded suspiciously like a rehearsed answer not unlike a politician delivering a made-for-TV soundbite in a debate Beckett stated defiantly: "I spend my off-days the way I want to spend them."

When another question was posed, asking whether he could understand how fans might react, Beckett was ready again: "My off-day is my off-day."

Not long after, he mentioned that major league teams have just 18 off-days per season, and they were his to spend as he wished.

"I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves," said Beckett.

Here, of course, Beckett is being more than a little disingenuous. No one is suggesting that players don't have the right to some recreation. What doesn't pass the smell test, however, is the timing, coming as it did when he was being ruled out of his next start, just two days after tee time.

It was the same logic that Beckett used when he attempted to explain his poor performance last September by mentioning that his wife was expecting the couple's first child and he wasn't about to misplace his priorities.

No one was suggesting that, naturally. But many athletes possess the ability to be good point guards, left wings, tight ends and starting pitchers, while still acting as good husbands and fathers.

It's not, as Beckett suggested, an either-or-proposition.

Beckett's insistence that he did nothing wrong is merely one more invitation to fans to tune the Red Sox out. It's one thing for a team to under-perform and another thing entirely to come off as distinctly unlikeable.

In his first press conference this spring, Beckett did acknowledge that the Sox had to earn back the trust of the fans after last fall's collapse and ensuing unsavory tales from the clubhouse.

But with a chance to do so, Beckett stumbled even more than he did on the mound hours earlier.

Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

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Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

Hanley Ramirez is getting a night off as the Red Sox look for their third straight win against the Rays tonight at Tropicana Field.

Travis Shaw will play first base, with Brock Holt at third.

Tonight's lineups:

RED SOX:
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Brock Holt 3B
Travis Shaw 1B
Andrew Benintendi LF
---
Rick Porcello P

RAYS:
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller SH
Matt Duffy SS
Logan Morrison 1B
Steven Souza Jr. RF
Corey Dickerson LF
Bobby Wilson C
---
Matt Andriese P

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- This is the kind of season it has been for Clay Buchholz:

A little more than a month ago, he was merely taking up space on the Red Sox roster, having been summarily removed from the rotation after three months of poor outings.

He was in the bullpen, but the Sox were loathe to use him. Asked, memorably, why Buchholz hadn't been the choice to serve as a long reliever in a game in which the starter departed early, John Farrell candidly noted, in not so many words, that because the Sox still had a chance to win the game, Buchholz didn't make sense as an option.

Ouch.

But slowly, Buchholz became more effective in his new relief role. And when injuries struck the rotation, Buchholz got himself three cameo starts, during which he posted a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 innings, topped by Tuesday's beauty -- 6 1/3 innings, one run allowed, nine strikeouts recorded.

Just as Buchholz has straightened out, however, Red Sox starters are suddenly stacked up like jets waiting for clearance to land at Logan Airport. Steven Wright returns from a brief DL stint Friday, and Eduardo Rodriguez is not far behind.

When he pitched poorly, the Red Sox didn't have any other options.

When he pitched well, the Red Sox have plenty of other choices.

So, now what?

"As far as Clay goes,'' said John Farrell, "this will be, I'm sure, a conversation (had) within (the organization). But setting that aside, he's throwing the ball exceptionally well right now.''

That's indisputable.

But the question remains: In what capacity will he throw the ball in the near future?

There's been a suggestion to keep Buchholz in the rotation while moving Drew Pomeranz to the bullpen. That would give the Sox a dependable lefty in relief -- as opposed to, say, Fernando Abad -- while also serving the dual purpose of putting a governor on Pomeranz's climbing innings total.

Pomeranz, who has plenty of bullpen experience in the big leagues, has also thrown 140 1/3 innings this season, eclipsing his previous major league high by nearly 40.

But Pomeranz is 27, not 21. He's shown no signs of fatigue. To the contrary, he's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts. The Sox shouldn't mess with his success.

Instead, Buchholz should become one of the team's high-leverage set-up weapons, available in the seventh or eighth inning.

True, Buchholz doesn't have the swing-and-miss capability you'd prefer to have in the eighth inning, where the fewer balls put in play, the better off you are. But he can get lefties and righties out, and, pitching out of the stretch full-time, he's greatly improved his command.

Buchholz would remain the best option for a spot start if one of the five Red Sox starters faltered or got hurt. But the bullpen remains the best choice for him.

Ironic, isn't it? When he pitched poorly, he remained in the rotation for several months. Now that he's pitching superbly, he can't earn a permanent spot.

It's been that kind of season.