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Red Sox Notebook

Tough choice made

Hobbled Beltre decides to play

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / August 30, 2010

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — There was no way that Adrian Beltre was coming out of Saturday night’s game, short of a broken limb or gushing blood. A tweaked hamstring certainly wasn’t going to do it. So, not only did Beltre stay in the game despite a noticeable limp, he was back in the starting lineup last night against the Rays.

As he explained, “I’m stubborn, and sometimes I go overboard.’’

The hamstring was, as he put it, “good enough’’ for him to play in another big game for the Red Sox. Beltre was not about to sit, even if his body wasn’t at its best.

Despite the ailments, Beltre went 1 for 4, his injury quite noticeable as doubled to left in the sixth and came around to score on Daniel Nava’s single in the sixth inning of the Sox’ 5-3 loss.

“We know how important these games are for us,’’ Beltre said beforehand. “For me to be sitting on the bench with the slight chance that I can play, it’s hard for me to sit. That’s why I’m not doing it.

“I think we’ve had enough guys on the DL already and guys missing a lot of games already. So I don’t think that we need to add anybody else to the list. So I’m going to do my best to stay in there.’’

And that’s something the Sox are happy to hear.

“We’re pleased, but that’s one of the things that kind of came with his reputation,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “They said he really never wanted a day off.

“I think in part because of guys like Beltre, [Marco] Scutaro have given us some stability so that all of a sudden when you’re mixing and matching, Nava and those guys, it’s kind of worked. Not always. But it’s given us a chance.’’

The question is whether Beltre will stay in there next year. He took a chance last offseason, signing a one-year deal with a player option. The contract is worth $10 million, including a $1 million buyout if he reaches 575 plate appearance. He is almost certain to do so, as he already has 525. And though there is that player option, Beltre won’t exercise it, given the opportunity to make far more on the open market.

Beltre, who is batting .323 with 23 home runs and 88 RBIs, has put together his best season since his 48-homer campaign for the Dodgers in 2004. He also seems comfortable in the Red Sox’ clubhouse, even with all the broken ribs scattered in his wake.

“It’s obvious that I like it here, I like the teammates, the team’s obviously going to be a team that’s always going to be contending and I like that,’’ he said. “Let’s see what they want to do and let’s see what my options are after the end of the year.’’

Beltre seems poised to earn a significant deal, perhaps for $13 million to $15 million per year. And it’s possible that the Sox will try to re-sign him, given that they will need a corner infielder and that Beltre has been a perfect fit at Fenway Park.

Asked if the atmosphere in Boston brings out the best in him, Beltre said, “I think it has something to do with it. When you have a good lineup every day that they have been in the hunt before and know how to play the game and having a full stadium at home every day, that helps. Who knows? I’m glad to play here this year and I’m glad that I got to play for the Red Sox, and who knows if I’m going to be here for the next few years?’’

Claimed, not caught
The Red Sox have claimed Angels catcher Mike Napoli off waivers, but the teams are unlikely to make a deal, according to a Sox source. Boston has been interested for a few years in Napoli, who has hit .291 with five homers and nine RBIs in 15 games against them over the last two seasons. Napoli is batting .249 this season with 21 home runs and 60 RBIs. Adding the catcher would have provided some insurance for next season, as the contracts of Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek are expiring. But it appears the Angels, who have been using Jeff Mathis as their primary catcher, would prefer to create more of a trade market for Napoli in the offseason . . . Martinez got spiked by Carlos Pena when the first baseman came around to try to score in the sixth inning. But the catcher didn’t seem to be too banged up after the game. “I think he’s OK,’’ Francona said. “I think the spike kind of went through his shin guard. Part of his shin guard got ripped off. On the side where the material is, there was a hole. Just needed to put it back together. He was OK.’’

Boys with the hood
Rays manger Joe Maddon prefers to wear a hooded sweat shirt during games played outdoors, a fashion choice that Major League Baseball tried to prohibit earlier in the season. Maddon fought the ruling and won the right to wear his sweatshirt. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, a one-man fashion trend when it comes to hooded sweat shirts, heard of the dispute and sent Maddon a Patriots sweat shirt with the manager’s initials. He included a note that read, “From one hoodie wearer to another, I thought I’d pass along my complete support with something to wear.’’ But rather than wear it, Maddon had the sweat shirt and note framed and has it hanging in his office at Tropicana Field. “Oh, I love that,’’ he said. “It’s one of my favorite souvenirs. That was nice of Coach Belichick to do that.’’ . . . Hideki Okajima made his first appearance since coming off the disabled list, striking out Carl Crawford and allowing a single up the middle to Evan Longoria as the Rays’ scored their fifth run of the game . . . Mike Lowell had his first multihit game since Aug. 13 at Texas. Lowell had been batting just .171 and slugging .220 over his last 13 games before last night, when he had a single and a double and scored a run . . . Instead of Bill Hall or Jed Lowrie, Francona turned to rookie Yamaico Navarro at second base in one of the more important games of the season. The manager explained that he went with Navarro over Lowrie because of the split-fingered fastball of Rays starter James Shields, who has been tougher on lefties than righties. Lowrie is just 1 for 6 against Shields, though that’s a small sample size. Navarro went 1 for 3, driving in Lowell with a single for his first RBI in the major leagues.

Peter Abraham of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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