Beckett gets a chance to slay some demons

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Beckett gets a chance to slay some demons

Considering we're only two months into a six-month season, it's a little early to start talking about guys coming "full circle." But tonight at Fenway, Josh Beckett can take a large and rather symbolic step towards keeping his once-disgusting season trending in the right direction.

The last time Beckett took the mound against the Detroit Tigers, it was a downright disaster.

You ever wonder what it would be like if John Wasdin and Mark Melancon had a baby together? Of course you have. We all have. And on April 7, we found out.

As you remember, it was Beckett's first start of the season, his first start since September's collapse, and to celebrate, he was absolutely horrendous.

4 23 innings, 7 hits, 7 runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts and . . .

the poisonous-cherry-on-his-feces sundae . . .

Five home runs.

He'd given up five homers in a start only once before in his career. In 2011, he hadn't give up his fifth home run until July 28. And considering how last season had ended, it was really the worst possible way for him to kick off the 2012 campaign. (Thankfully, the local media was calm and cool, and didn't overreact in the slightest.).

But since then, Beckett's been solid. In fact, save for one ugly start against Cleveland, he's been the Sox best pitcher.

He's pitched into the seventh inning in six of his subsequent eight starts. He's gone at least seven innings in his last three starts, while giving up no more than two runs in any of them not surprisingly, the Sox are 3-0.

And the most impressive stat of all: After giving up those five homers in his first 4 23 innings, Beckett's surrendered only four homers in his last 51 23 innings. He's no more likable than he was back in April, but you can't deny that he's finally righted his tubby ship, and almost ALMOST looks ready to re-claim his title as ace of this Red Sox staff. Can he do it?

We'll see what happens tonight, when Beckett takes the mound against the team that got his season off to such an inglorious start.

But just to be safe, I wouldn't park you car in the lot behind the Monster.

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

Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

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Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

The Adam Jones-Yadier Molina verbal skirmish is as predictable as it is annoying.

Was every cultural nuance for the 16 World Baseball Classic teams explained in a booklet the players had to memorize before the tournament?

No? Then it’s amazing there weren’t more moments like this.

Jones, the Orioles outfielder, said Team USA's championship game win over Puerto Rico was motivated by Puerto Rico's choice to plan a post-tournament parade for the team before the final game.

As Jones was raised, parades in pro sports are for championship teams. Red Sox fans are likely aware of this.

As Jones was raised, discussing a parade before a title is secured suggests overconfidence. Rex Ryan fans are likely aware of this.

After an 8-0 win for the U.S., Jones revealed the parade was used as bulletin-board material.

"Before the game, we got a note that there was some championship shirts made -- we didn't make 'em -- and a flight [arranged],” Jones said. “That didn't sit well with us. And a parade -- it didn't sit well with us."

But apparently, Jones didn't know the full context of the parade. It was reportedly planned regardless of whether Puerto Rico won.

One Team USA teammate of Jones whom CSNNE spoke with didn't believe that, however.

"It was called a champions parade that got turned into a celebration parade once they lost," the player said. "I think they just don't like getting called out by Jones, but all Jones did was tell exactly what happened."

Jones’ comments weren’t received well.

Puerto Rico's going through a trying time, a recession, and the entire island rallied behind the team.

“Adam Jones . . . is talking about things he doesn't know about," Molina told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. "He really has to get informed because he shouldn't have said those comments, let alone in public and mocking the way [preparations] were made.”

No one should be upset Jones explained what he was thinking.

Jones actually asked MLB Network host Greg Amsinger, “Should I tell the truth?”

Yes. It’s better than lying.

Look at the reactions across the WBC: the bat flips, the raw emotion. Honesty conveyed via body language.

People in the U.S. are starting to accept and crave those reactions. The WBC helped promote a basic idea: let people be themselves.

Jones said what was on his mind. We can’t celebrate bat flips and then say Jones should keep his mouth shut.

But there's an unreasonable expectation being placed on Jones here.

He heard about a parade -- which is to say, a subject he wouldn't normally think twice about or investigate before a championship baseball game.

Plus, it gave him motivation.

Why is Jones, or anyone with Team USA, more responsible for gaining an advance understanding of Puerto Rico’s parade-planning conventions -- we're talking about parade planning! -- than Puerto Rico is responsible for keeping U.S. norms in mind when making and/or talking about those plans?

No one involved here was thinking about the other’s perception or expectation. It's impossible to always do so.

But that’s how these moments develop: what’s obvious to one party is outlandish to the other.

Now Molina, Puerto Rico's catcher, wants an apology.

"He has to apologize to the Puerto Rican people," Molina told ESPN. "Obviously, you wanted to win; he didn't know what this means to [our] people."

Jones can clear the air with an apology, but he doesn't owe one. And he definitely doesn't owe one after Molina took it a step further.

"I'm sending a message to [Jones], saying, 'Look at this, right now you're in spring training working out, and we're with our people, with our silver medals,' " Molina said. "You're in spring training and you're working . . . you have no idea how to celebrate your honors, you don't know what it means.”

Team USA had no parade. Manager Jim Leyland made clear how the U.S. was celebrating, by recognizing those serving the country.

The silver lining here is how much attention the WBC has drawn, and how much conversation it can drive. People care, a great sign for the sport -- and its potential to foster better understanding across cultures.

Internationally, the sport is on parade.

Wright extends scoreless streak to 9 1/3 innings in Red Sox' 10-7 win over Pirates

Wright extends scoreless streak to 9 1/3 innings in Red Sox' 10-7 win over Pirates

The angst surrounding the David Price- and (possibly) Drew Pomeranz-less Red Sox starting rotation may have eased a little -- or a lot -- on Thursday.

Steven Wright extended his string of scoreless spring-training innings to 9 1/3 by blanking the Pirates for 4 1/3 innings in his third spring-traing start, leading the Sox to a 10-7 victory over the Pirates at SkyBlue Park.

Red Sox-Pirates box score

Wright allowed two hits -- the only two hits he's allowed this spring -- with one walk and three strikeouts.

Several of his pitching brethren, notably Heath Hembree and Robbie Ross Jr., didn't fare nearly as well. (See box score above.) But the Sox -- using what may be their regular-season batting order for the first time -- bailed them out with a 16-hit attack, led by Dustin Pedroia (3-for-3, now hitting ,500 for the spring). Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and, yes, Pablo Sandoval each added two hits. Sandoval also drove in three runs and is now hitting .362.

Xander Bogaerts went 1-for-4 in his return to the Sox from the World Baseball Classic.