Report of golf outing sparks Beckett controversy

Report of golf outing sparks Beckett controversy

Report of golf outing sparks Beckett controversy
KANSAS CITY -- Right-hander Josh Beckett has found himself in the middle of another controversy that has drawn the ire of the Red Sox's rabid fan base.

Manager Bobby Valentine announced May 2 that Beckett would be scratched from his start on Saturday because of tightness in his right lat. Valentine and general manager Ben Cherington both said it was a precautionary move, and also a way for Aaron Cook to get a crack at pitching in Boston's rotation.

Reports have now surfaced that Beckett was golfing with teammate Clay Buchholz at a Boston-area course Thursday, an off-day for the Red Sox.

By the time the clubhouse opened to the media at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday, Beckett was en route back to Boston in advance of his scheduled start Thursday night at Fenway Park, and therefore unavailable for comment.

How did Valentine feel about Beckett reportedly golfing on an off-day despite having some physical issues?

"I haven't talked to Josh about this yet, so I'm not sure I can really comment on it other than to say, physical issues, I guess," said Valentine. "He had a sore lat. He wasn't an injured player, I know that. We'll take it from there. But I'm sure that Josh wouldn't do anything that's going to jeopardize his team or his season, I know that."

Buchholz declined comment on the matter before Wednesday's game, but he didn't deny the golf outing took place.

The story of Beckett golfing was first reported by CBS Radio Boston.

Valentine was also asked about the situation in his weekly radio appearance with WEEI on Wednesday.

"I haven't gotten to Josh about that yet," Valentine told WEEI hosts Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley. "I'm trying to sort out my feelings. Golf is as much a part of the pitching culture as the curveball -- I know that for sure.

"You know, when we decided for Josh not to make his start, it wasn't that he was injured. It was just a precautionary situation. His lat was a little tight. Again, I don't know the specifics of this situation. I don't know if he was out in a charity match and just putting or if he was wailing away or if he felt that might have loosened him up. I have no idea what the situation actually is, so it's hard for me to comment on it."

But what if Beckett was actually playing a full 18 holes just a day after he was scratched from an upcoming start?

"If that was the case, I would say that was less than the best thing to do on that day off," Valentine said.

When stories broke following last season's collapse that Boston starting pitchers were drinking beer in the clubhouse during games they weren't pitching in, Beckett -- fairly or not -- became the most publicly-targeted member of a story that took on a life of its own.

At the start of Spring Training, Beckett acknowledged that he had some lapses in judgment late last season and acknowledged that he and some teammates needed to earn back the trust of Red Sox fans.

This latest story -- if it's true -- isn't going to help matters. The Red Sox are 12-17 and in last place in the American League East.

If Beckett was healthy enough to golf, could he have pitched on Sunday, when the Red Sox lost in 17 innings and position player Darnell McDonald was thrust into mound duty?

Valentine didn't ask any of his starting pitchers to pitch in relief in that game. He doesn't think it would be a fair thing to ask.

"Someone would have to come to me and say they would have to get loose in time, that they wouldn't need the regular rubdown and need the regular longtoss and wouldn't need the regular time in the bullpen for me to be able to look at the lineup card and pencil them in," Valentine said. "It's way out of the box, and what usually happens is a voluntary situation. I remember a situation in New York where Rick Reed came down with his spikes and said, 'I'm a quick one. I could get ready in five minutes.' He was available, and I didn't use him as it turns out."

Does Valentine tell players what they should or shouldn't do off the field when they get scratched due to injury?

"I don't think I've ever had that conversation with anyone who has any stripes on their shoulder," Valentine said. "A young guy who might be feeling his way through a disabled situation or an injury situation, sometimes you have to tell them to get to the park early so that he gets the treatment early before the other guys get there and it doesn't interfere with the routine of guys who might be playing.

"Or you might advise guys of the right thing to do or what might have happened in the past that you experience that could be incorrect. I think you go into this thing -- or I go into this thing -- believing and having faith in [the fact] that the people we have together know the difference between right and wrong. And if you just decide what's right, then you won't be wrong."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.