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For Beckett, par for course

Josh Beckett didn’t make it out of the third on Thursday. Josh Beckett didn’t make it out of the third on Thursday. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 12, 2012
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Josh Beckett compared the last three days of his life to being on a reality show.

“I’m on ‘Khloe and Lamar Go To Boston’ or something,’’ he said while standing in front of the home dugout at Fenway Park on Friday. “How did that happen?’’

Beckett knows exactly why. We don’t need any Kardashians in New England, we have our athletes and they provide plenty of contrived drama.

The Red Sox have been a disaster since last September and Beckett is the face of their fall collapse and sickening spring. He was the perceived ringleader of the chicken and beer parties in the clubhouse last season, and this week it was revealed that he played golf on a day off while recovering from a sore lat muscle that caused him to miss a start.

Beckett made it worse by giving up seven runs against the Indians on Thursday before getting pulled in the third inning. Then he entertained postgame questions with his usual smug indifference.

All Beckett needed to do was act contrite and the episode would have blown over. Instead, he made it worse by acting offended at the idea that anybody would care what he did on his day off.

A day later, Beckett was a little less defiant but not remotely apologetic.

“I wasn’t going to hurt myself playing golf,’’ he said. “I was fine.’’

So, why did he miss a start?

“We were just being careful to make sure something didn’t happen,’’ he said. “That wasn’t my call. I would have pitched if they wanted me to pitch.’’

Manager Bobby Valentine, who has picked his words carefully after his criticism of Kevin Youkilis became its own episode last month, backed up Beckett in that regard.

Beckett wasn’t injured, he said. It was a precautionary move.

“I don’t think I am making a determination on what people do on their offdays, unless it affects the performance of them on the field, and it seems that he was healthy when he played and it seems that [the golf] didn’t hurt him,’’ he said.

“It would be very tough for a manager to start legislating what guys do when they’re away from the park.’’

That’s not to say there won’t be a little talk about paying closer attention to perception and not angering the customers.

“I think there are things that have been thought about since this has happened, by everyone concerned,’’ Valentine said. “In terms of just right and wrong and what to do next time.’’

It will be a surprise if Beckett listens. He has been catered to since he arrived in Boston, allowed to dictate who catches him and when he works out. The clubhouse beer drinking didn’t happen for the first time last year, either.

Blame Beckett for being surly. But throw some blame at the Red Sox for not demanding better behavior. From the ownership level down to his assorted pitching coaches over the years, there has been a hands-off policy for Beckett.

Terry Francona used to say that he stayed away from Beckett unless there was some compelling reason to talk to him. Valentine said on Friday that they talk no more than every three days or so.

“Josh has been a real professional to talk to. He’s been always on the same page in conversation,’’ Valentine said. “He’s with the guys. He’s making jokes in the food room when I go by. He’s shagging balls and seems to have fun. He seems to be regular to me.’’

Bob McClure, the Sox’ third pitching coach in three years, also defended Beckett. The long layoff between starts led to his poor performance on Thursday, McClure said. Playing golf was fine, too.

What about that 17-inning game last Sunday, could Beckett have pitched in relief instead of outfielder Darnell McDonald?

“That would be ludicrous,’’ McClure said. “What we were trying to do is give him a breather, and now we’re going to throw him in the game? That doesn’t make any sense. Even if he was available, I don’t know he’s the one you want to do that to.’’

What if Beckett said he wanted to pitch?

“I would have said, ‘Absolutely not.’ The whole point is we’re trying to keep things good for the whole season, not create more problems,’’ McClure said. “What happens if we do that and something happens to his elbow and shoulder and he’s gone for the season? There’s no way. That’s not the smart thing to do.’’

McClure acknowledged that the timing of Beckett’s golf date wasn’t good. But he didn’t have a problem with it.

“Their offday is their offday,’’ McClure said. “Golf is different from pitching. Throwing a baseball and swinging a golf club are two different things. I don’t think they’re relative.’’

With enablers like that, no wonder Beckett is happy in Boston. The Sox have twice given him contract extensions, too. He’s being rewarded for being himself, why would you expect him to change?

“I don’t want to be traded,’’ Beckett said. “I want to win here. I like this team. It’s a good bunch of guys.’’

It’s easy to say the Red Sox should trade Beckett, but it’s also impractical.

Since 2006, Beckett is one of nine AL pitchers to start at least 175 games and have an earned run average under 4.25. His postseason record (3.07 ERA in 14 appearances) is sterling.

Beckett also is signed through the 2014 season, has approximately $44 million remaining on his deal, and can veto any trade thanks to having gained his 10/5 rights.

Ben Cherington would have to be a magician to make a trade that returns anything close to equal value.

So, get used to the reality show. You may not like Beckett and he may not much like you for prying into his days off. But at least he’s better than Lamar Odom.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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