Valentine defends Josh Beckett

BOSTON -- There were more questions Friday for Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine regarding pitcher Josh Beckett, who on Thursday night refused to offer any explanation for why he chose to play golf the day after it was announced his start would be skipped because of tightness in his lat muscle.

"I don't think I am making a determination on what people do on their off days unless it affects the performance of them on the field," Valentine said. "And it seems that he was healthy when he played, and it seems like it didn't hurt him. It's very tough for a manager to start legislating what players do when they're away from the park."

Valentine said there have been discussions internally in the wake of the attention Beckett's golf outing received, most of it negative.

"I think there are things that have been thought about since this happened by everyone concerned in terms of right and wrong and what to do next time," Valentine said.

During his weekly radio appearance Friday on ESPN New York's "The Michael Kay Show," Valentine defended Beckett but also admitted that the perception of what happened could be seen in a negative light.

"It doesn't look good, but what a guy does on his off day if he's not putting his career in jeopardy, not putting his team in jeopardy -- and I'm sure Josh would never do anything that would result in those things -- that's what a man does in his free time," the manager said. "Especially if you're a pitcher."

Beckett, who gave up seven runs in 2 1/3 innings Thursday night, matching his shortest start ever, adamantly maintained afterward that what he does on his off day is his business.

The issue, of course, ran deeper than that -- the appropriateness of a pitcher taking part in a physical activity when he was physically unable to make his start.

"Again that gets into a semantics thing," Valentine said. "If you're injured you can't do it. If there's an injury involved you can't do anything away from the park, you can't do anything that might cause more pain."

So wasn't there a physical reason Beckett was skipped?

"I didn't think it was a physical thing," Valentine said. "I thought it was a precautionary thing. From the first day I said we're going to do it (skip him), I said 126 pitches (in his April 29 start in Chicago) and I said there was some lat stiffness.

"I was in the training room when they were digging into his lat and (Beckett) said, 'Yeah, it's a little sore right there.' I said, 'I'm not taking a chance this time of the season.'"

That was May 2. The next day, an off day, Beckett went golfing with fellow pitcher Clay Buchholz. Two days later, Aaron Cook started in Beckett's place.
"I heard the day we skipped him, when Cook pitched, that [Beckett] was feeling good to pitch that night," Valentine said. "I think golf was after that."

No, Valentine was reminded, it came before. It also came before the Sox played 17 innings against the Orioles last Sunday, when they used nine pitchers, the last outfielder Darnell McDonald.

Valentine said there was a thought of using Cook in that game "but it didn't come to fruition."

He said there was no real discussion of using Beckett out of the bullpen when he ran out of pitchers.

"I think it was a gesture to Bob. (Pitching coach) Bob McClure said (Beckett) pointed to his spikes. I think he pointed to the spikes. I guess there was a communication he didn't have to put on his spikes.

"I didn't go over and say, 'C'mon, we need you big guy, what do you think?' I had thought it wasn't going to happen, I guess."

Beckett gave up seven runs on seven hits Thursday night. Six of the hits went for extra bases, including two home runs. Valentine said Beckett thought he might have been tipping pitches.

"Josh seems to think this team is on him more than others," Valentine said, adding that it was "suspicious" that Cleveland's left-handed hitters were always ahead on the pitch when Beckett threw a cutter inside.

"Healthwise, he was fine," Valentine said. "He said he felt great today, and he was actively pursuing the answers to the problem."

To a roomful of reporters Thursday night, Beckett replied "none" when asked if the controversy surrounding his golf outing had affected him.

Friday, in an interview with a WEEI.com reporter, Beckett gave a different response.

"Distracted? Yeah," he said. "When you here stuff like that the day before you start it's mind-boggling. I'm loading a plane in Kansas City when I hear about it.

"I don't want to be part of a reality show. If I wanted to be part of a reality show I would move to L.A. That's not what I'm here for. I'm here to win baseball games, and we're not doing a good job of that. Am I part of the solution or am I part of the problem? I want to part of the solution, not part of the problem."