Beckett met with his new manager, Bobby Valentine, on New Year's Day at the pitcher's Texas home, and Beckett's takeaway was that things will go well. In his time as an ESPN analyst, Valentine was critical of Beckett's in-game pace in August, irking the pitcher. The two initially discussed that issue on the phone in December, and the air appears to have been cleared: "I love Tito," Beckett said, referring to former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, "but I think it's going to be fine."
"I don't think we really got specific with anything. Bobby came to my house and we had a great talk," Beckett said. "He seems like he's really excited about this. I think the first thing I said to him was, 'Hey, congratulations,' because I don't think anybody's ever been handed something like the Boston Red Sox. The Boston Red Sox, not only the organization, but the team that we have right now is so talented and he even said, 'Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about.'
"We had a little talk about [the ESPN commentary] and I think it was initiated just as a kind of conversation starter. It wasn't really anything too detailed. I think it was one of those deals where he felt bad because somebody else told him he should feel bad about it, but it wasn't anything for me."
Beckett won 13 games in 2011 and precisely halved his ERA (2.89) from the season before (5.78), but he was implicated in reports as being among a group of pitchers who were not focused on the field at the end of last season as the team missed the playoffs.
"I think the biggest key is what [Jon] Lester said to end that: We stunk on the field, and that was the bottom line," Beckett said. "If we would have pitched better, none of that stuff would have even been an issue. And it shouldn't be an issue anyway, because what goes on in the clubhouse should stay in the clubhouse. I don't care who says that or whatever, I'm not saying we don't make mistakes in the clubhouse -- and I think [former Sox player and current MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar] will definitely respond to that because, hell, they were drinking Jack Daniels and they won the World Series [in 2004] -- it's just what goes on in the clubhouse, it's supposed to stay in the clubhouse."
Beckett said he started to really get excited for the 2012 season once he started working out, acknowledging that most of his focus early in the winter was on his family.