Josh Beckett cites 'clubhouse mistakes'

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett admitted on Sunday to some "lapses in judgment" regarding his conduct in the team's clubhouse last season, which ended with a historic September collapse, and said he was "distracted."

"We made mistakes in the clubhouse, and that's about as far as I'll go talking about the clubhouse,'' he said.

Beckett would not elaborate on why he was distracted, but his wife gave birth to the couple's first child late last season.

Beckett also insisted there was never a time he wasn't ready to pitch and when asked if it was fair to be singled out for being out of shape at the end of the season, he said, "I put on a little bit of weight. I don't have a reason for it, but it happened. I'm looking forward to going forward from here.''

Beckett and fellow pitcher Jon Lester met separately with reporters Sunday, expressing varying degrees of responsibility for the team's collapse last September but agreeing that the fans' anger was understandable.

"They should be (angry),'' Lester said Sunday morning, reporting day for Red Sox pitchers and catchers. "We didn't play very good. With all the other stuff added on top of that, it's obviously going to make it worse. I don't blame them for being mad. We didn't play good. We stunk. I stunk. I take complete responsibility for it.

"With that being said, we've all learned from it. We've all moved on. I'm sure that's going to be a big theme in spring training for a lot of guys. We're moving on and we're looking forward to 2012. I think that desire (is there) to compete and really win and show the fans that we do actually care. I think a lot of fans don't think we care and that we're a bunch of babies, but we do care. We want to win and we want to get back into the playoffs and hopefully bring a World Series back to this town again and show these fans that we are a good team."

Beckett also acknowledged that the Red Sox must win back the trust of their fan base.

"Yeah, absolutely. I think we need to earn that trust back,'' he said. "They're the best fans in baseball. There are some good, some bad, everything like that, but they're the best fans in baseball. I definitely think we need to earn that trust back. The way we have to do that is go about our business the way we have in previous years and earn it back and win ballgames. That's probably going to be the best way.''

New Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who met with the media prior to both pitchers, said he was heartened by what he had seen from Lester and Beckett, who were prime targets of much of the offseason criticism directed at the club, particularly after the Boston Globe ran a front-page story about the starting pitchers drinking beer and fried chicken in the clubhouse.

"If they lead by example as much as they've led by example the last few days, that will be enough," Valentine said. "I won't ask more."

The manager said he was surprised by how many players had come to the team's spring training facility early to work out.

Lester, who arrived at the beginning of the month, also cited that as an example of how eager players are to erase the memories of last season's 7-20 finish.

"The way everything ended obviously leaves a bitter taste in everyone's mouths," Lester said. "I'm definitely motivated to get back and I'm ready to go. It's been a long winter and I'm excited to be here."

Lester said there were things he did last season that he was "not proud of," but expressed a desire to take on a greater leadership role this season.

"Being a better teammate,'' he said. "Being on the bench. With that being said, the starting pitchers do have a lot of stuff to do during the game that we don't get to before the game because position players are the priority. If we're not pitching, then we let them go first and we'll come in after the game starts and do what we need to do."

Beckett said that he did not sense "a different vibe" in the clubhouse last season, something Kevin Youkilis alluded to in a recent interview.

"I didn't see it,'' Beckett said.

"Winning will heal a lot,'' he said. "The clubhouse in September and the clubhouse in the beginning of April were no different. In between there, we apparently had some great chemistry because we were playing great baseball. Winning cures that. If we had gone 20-7, I think it would have been a little bit different as far as the atmosphere in the clubhouse. Winning's fun, losing sucks.''

Asked if it was fair that he should be the lightning rod for much of the criticism directed at the team, Beckett said: "I can't control that. I'm sure it manifested itself somehow. I can't control it.''

Beckett and Lester are expected to be the mainstays of the rotation once again this season, after combining for 61 starts, 384 2/3 innings and 28 wins last season.

"I'm not saying we didn't make mistakes, because we made mistakes in the clubhouse,'' Beckett said, "but the biggest mistake I made was not pitching well against Baltimore. I was prepared to pitch every time I went out there. I just didn't execute pitches when I needed to.''

Beckett's 2.89 ERA ranked fifth in the AL, and his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) was 4.3, according to Fangraphs.com, which ranked 12th among AL pitchers. Lester's WAR was 3.7, which ranked 14th.

Last spring, Beckett gained widespread attention by predicting the Red Sox would win 100 games.

"I think what I said was we have a chance to do something really special, something I watched the Braves do a number of times and that was something I wanted to be a part of,'' Beckett said. "I still want to do that and I think this team has a chance to do that as well.''

Gordon Edes and Joe McDonald cover the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.