The best and worst of Beckett

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The best and worst of Beckett

It took Josh Beckett 37 pitches to get the first three outs of last night's game. And over that stretch, we saw Beckett at his absolute worst.

Was he not entirely warmed up? Had the early 3-0 lead affected his focus? Was he just plain unlucky? The real answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, but regardless of the reason, the results were brutal.

To start the game, he gave up a single to Denard Span, who was replaced Jamey Carroll after a fielder's choice. Then, Beckett walked Joe Mauer (after going ahead 1-2) to put runners on first and second, walked Josh Willngham (after going ahead 0-2) to load the bases, and then walked Justin Morneau (after going ahead 0-2) to force home a run. To make it all the more excruciating, Beckett was working so characteristically slow that you had time to finish all five Game of Thrones books during the wait between pitches.

Over the course of his straight three walks, Beckett was also squeezed by umpire Adrian Johnson. Pretty flagrantly at that. So by the time the Twins' run crossed the plate, the Texas Tough Guy was in full effect. You could see, almost hear Beckett swearing at Johnson from the mound. And you know what? He had every right to be angry, but the whole time I think we were all thinking the same thing:

"Is this guy serious? With everything that's going on with this team. With all the criticism and bad publicity he's personally received over the last seven months. Is he really going to get himself thrown out in the first inning?"

It sure looked that way. Especially after Beckett worked himself out of the jam and stormed off the mound glaring and screaming in Johnson's direction.

But you have to give Johnson credit. Sure, his incompetence had created that monster in the first place, but he was still well within his right to toss Beckett. There are a lot of umpires in baseball who would have thrown him out immediately, and filed the scene away in their Spank Bank. But Johnson resisted the temptation, and allotted Beckett who at this point was thinking about nothing but himself and his own warped sense of pride a little temper tantrum.

And thank God he did.

Beckett came back out in the second inning and retired the side on nine pitches. In the third, now with a 5-1 lead, he ran into a little trouble but escaped after only 16 pitches. In the fourth, now with a 7-1 lead, he retired the side on eight pitches. In the fifth, now with a 10-1 lead, he gave up one run but was generally sharp. And in the sixth he was sharper than a Hanzo sword, striking out the side on 18 pitches.

And that was his night.

A solid sixth inning outing; one that's probably better off broken down into two separate frames.

Frame No. 1: One inning, 37 pitches, three walks, one strikeout, one run and one long, extended, selfish temper tantrum. The embodiment of the kind performance and attitude that helped ruin last season and could very well threaten this one.

Frame No. 2: Five innings, 63 pitches, zero walks and four strikeouts. Calm, composure and consistent dominance. The guy Red Sox need every five days and whose existence may ultimately make or break their fortunes.

The best and worst of Josh Beckett.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Sale: “Time for both sides to do something different, I guess”

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Sale: “Time for both sides to do something different, I guess”

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- While there’s a deal of anticipation going into Spring training with the four Killer B’s, David Price and Pablo Sandoval’s shot at redemption and Rick Porcello looking to be something similar to his 2016 self, there’s one name that trumps them all.

Chris Sale.

The lankly lefty received an ovation from fans at the Friday night Town Hall, kicking off Red Sox Winter Weekend. With his consistent success, there’s reason to be excited.

But there’s also reason for apprehension given the way Sale’s departure from Chicago was depicted. But he’s made sure to clear the air.

“I wouldn’t say . . . ya know . . . I loved my time in Chicago,” Sale said when asked if it was time to leave the Windy City. “My best baseball memories are there [and] will be there forever. I love the city; I love the people in the organization.

“It was time for both sides to do something different, I guess. I talked to (White Sox Senior V.P.) Rick on the phone, I talked to (White Sox pitching coach Don) Coop (Cooper). We’re all cool, it’s fine. We understand where both of us are, it happens in baseball, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Chicago.”

He didn’t seem irritated discussing the issue, and certainly wasn’t timid -- we all know that’s not in his DNA.

He genuinely seems excited to deal with the large sum of Sox fans and to call a new place home -- in a city his wife’s fond of no less.

But ultimately, he’s focused on winning, nothing else.

“Every time I’m out there it’s gonna be all I got,” Sale said. "Every time, no matter what. Can promise you that.”

Kennedy in pursuit of Drake for concert at Fenway

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Kennedy in pursuit of Drake for concert at Fenway

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Quick, if you could have one artist perform at Fenway Park, who would it be?

Florida Georgia Line or Carrie Underwood?

Kanye West?

Maybe a little throwback with Eminem?

Let’s stick to artists who go by one name actually. Red Sox President Sam Kennedy seems to think that’s a good idea.

“We’ve been approaching Drake, this year, we would love to have Drake come,” Kennedy said at Red Sox Winter Weekend. “We understand he’s not doing a big summer tour, but that’s an example of someone we’ve proactively gone out after.

“We’d love to have him come to Fenway Park, given his popularity.

Fenway will already play host to New Kids on the Block with Paula Abdul and Boysz II Men, James Taylor and Billy Joel, with the possibility of adding more.

“I’m not a huge music person,” Kennedy said. “We’ve tried to bring in as many different types of acts as we can to appeal to different demographics. The reality is with the baseball schedule, with the way it lays out, we’re sort of at the mercy of the touring and who’s out.

“We love having these events in Boston. It’s good for the economy, it’s good for Fenway . . . The city has been a very supportive partner in bringing events into town.”

From what Kennedy and his staff have gathered, it appears Drake is looking to do one-off shows instead of a tour. That’s just enough for the ever-persistent Red Sox President to keep working on bringing in the superstar.

“We’re not gonna give up,” Kennedy said.