Adrian Beltre heads home for birth

BOSTON -- Adrian Beltre has played his last game this season -- and perhaps beyond -- with the Boston Red Sox.

The veteran third baseman, and soon-to-be free agent, returned home to Los Angeles to be with his wife for the birth of the couple's third child.

"She did her damndest to not have this kid, and she gave up the battle," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said with a smile. "She's getting ready to have this kid, so he's leaving in a hurry. He was trying to get her so bad to [hold off] and she tried to hold on, but he needed to go home. He was rushing out of here, obviously with our blessing."

Francona and the Red Sox knew the last few days Beltre was on alert. When the clubhouse was opened to the media Friday afternoon, Beltre's locker was cleaned out and his nameplate was gone.

Beltre finished his first (and possibly only) season with the Red Sox with a .321 average, 28 homers and 102 RBIs. He signed a one-year deal with Boston last winter with the intention of showing the rest of the league he's still capable of producing both offensively and defensively, and putting himself in position to land a long-term contract.

He did just that.

Francona said it took a little while to get to know Beltre.

"The first month of the season, he would see me and think he wasn't playing," Francona said. "He avoided me. With AB, you kind of have to get to know him a little bit, but once that happened, he became more vocal in the dugout and became a leader on the field.

"If you ask everyone down there, they love him, myself included. He was a real treat. We were used to seeing him from the other side of the field. We saw what he could do defensively, you'd see that sparkling play every once in a while, and he'd beat us with a big swing. But when you see him every day -- beat up -- he's a real pro."

Beltre has been dealing with a number of nagging injuries, particularly a hamstring issue, much of the season, but has played on, important considering the number of injuries the Sox had to dealt with. His presence on and off the field was a major addition to the team.

"If guys like Beltre are leaders, you're going in the right direction," Francona said. "It's hard not to look up to him if you're a teammate of his."

Whether Beltre returns to Boston remains to be seen, but Francona said he would like to have him in his lineup.

"Sure. I'd like to see everybody back. I don't want to make Theo's job tougher than it is," Francona said, referring to general manager Theo Epstein. "AB is going to have some [decisions]. He was pretty honest about what he was doing here. He was coming kind of on a make good, and he made pretty good. It worked out for everybody. Now, where it goes will be interesting."

This season was Beltre's most productive since 2004, when he hit .334 with 48 homers and 121 RBIs in 156 games with the Dodgers. That season was also a contract year for him.

"He took some of the most ferocious hacks you've ever seen. But he would square-up balls and he ran every ball out. He was a treat," Francona said. "He was very accountable."

Beltre's wife would agree.

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.