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Valentine downplays Josh Beckett’s golf outing

Michael Dwyer | AP
Michael Dwyer | AP
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Josh Beckett wipes his head in the dugout after being taken out in the third inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Boston, Thursday, May 10, 2012.
The Associated Press

BOSTON — Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine on Thursday downplayed the uproar over pitcher Josh Beckett’s golf outing after he was taken out of the rotation because of stiffness.

Beckett, who was suffering from a sore back last week, was scheduled to start Thursday night against Cleveland.

“I’ve never seen a pitcher get hurt playing golf,” Valentine said.

Valentine said Beckett was scratched from a start last week with stiffness, which he didn’t think would be made worse by golfing. Had Beckett been sidelined with an actual injury, Valentine may have felt differently.

“I didn’t think he was injured when he was skipped,” Valentine said.

Fans haven’t been so forgiving since the story surfaced earlier this week. The Red Sox are off to a 12-18 start and sit in dead last in the American League East.

Valentine, speaking before the Red Sox opened a homestand against the Indians, said he understands why fans were outraged Beckett was golfing instead of resting for his return to the rotation.

“I understand the frustration for sure,” he said. “I understand the desire for excellence. I have the same frustration and anger at myself for not meeting the standard.”

The sour mood in Boston still lingers over the collapse at the end of last season, when the Red Sox slumped through September and were knocked out of playoff contention in the final game.

“I was told there was a lot negative feelings about last year. The first month of play, we haven’t done anything to erase those feelings,” Valentine said. “We have to play better and I think it will get better.”

As for Beckett, a few good outings will restore a positive outlook among the fans who are angered by his golf outing. A few bad starts, however, and the pressure on him is only going to increase.

Beckett’s off-the-field decisions have come up before. After last season, it was discovered that he was among a group that ate fried chicken and drank beer in the clubhouse during games. It is common for players to golf during the season, but typically not when one is recovering from an injury.

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