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Beckett ready to jump into Red Sox rotation

BOSTON -- Josh Beckett would love jersey No. 21, but the
newest member of Boston's starting rotation knows the Red Sox might
not hand over Roger Clemens' old number.

"I'm going to wear whatever they give me," Beckett said when
asked about his boyhood idol and fellow Texan. "It would
definitely mean something to me."

Beckett, in a conference call Saturday from his offseason ranch,
said he's "pumped" to be playing for a passionate fan base after
coming from the Florida Marlins.

Boston acquired the hard-throwing 25-year-old in a seven-player
deal that was completed on Thanksgiving. The Red Sox traded four
prospects to the Marlins for Beckett, third baseman Mike Lowell and
reliever Guillermo Mota.

"It's a new chapter in my life," Beckett said. "It's a
challenge I'm looking forward to."

Beckett talked to Kevin Millar, who was the Red Sox first
baseman for the past three seasons, and Red Sox pitcher David Wells
to get a feel for Boston. Wells has asked to be traded, and has
cited a lack of privacy in Boston, but Beckett says being in the
spotlight won't bother him.

"I'm from a relatively small town. I basically live on a ranch
in the offseason," he said. "I don't think it necessarily befits
my persona [but] I don't foresee it being a problem."

Beckett was the MVP of the 2003 World Series, when the Marlins
beat the New York Yankees. He's knows all about the Red Sox-Yankees
rivalry, but he's downplaying the hype.

"We've got a lot of games against other [teams], too, that
we've got to win," Beckett said.

It is the second time in three years that Boston has traded for
a potential ace over Thanksgiving. In 2003, the Red Sox acquired
Curt Schilling from the Arizona Diamondbacks and rode him to the
World Series title the next year.

Beckett went 15-8 with a 3.38 ERA last season, when he had
problems with his shoulder and recurring blisters on his right
middle finger. He said his shoulder is fine.

"I've got great strength in all my muscles," he said.

He is eligible for salary arbitration and expected to make
between $4 million and $5 million next season. He can become a free
agent after the 2007 season, and said Saturday that he doesn't know
if the Red Sox and his agent have discussed a long-term contract.

Boston traded top shortstop prospect Hanley Ramirez, plus minor-league pitchers Harvey Garcia, Anibal Sanchez and Jesus Delgado in
the deal.

Ramirez, 21, considered one of Boston's top prospects, hit .271
with six homers, 52 RBI and 26 stolen bases at Double-A Portland
last season before going 0-for-2 with the Red Sox during a
September call-up.

Lowell, 31, won a Gold Glove this year but his offense dropped
off drastically and he is owed $9 million each of the next two
seasons.