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Beckett, Theo talk deal

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  July 19, 2006 04:24 PM

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Josh Beckett celebrated his new three-year deal in style. The Sox righthander, who signed a new contract that will keep him with the team at least through the 2009 season, shutout the Kansas City Royals over eight innings. He gave up four hits, striking out seven and walking none to earn his 12th victory. The Sox swept the three-game set with their second straight 1-0 victory.

But the big news was Beckett's new deal.

"It's something that's been weighing on me," said Beckett of his contract situation. "We've been talking for awhile and it's nice to get it over with and move on. Actually, we didn't finish it until last night.

"I'm happy here. We've got the greatest fans in the world, and it was a deal where it gives me security and that's always a big thing, but it was also that I wanted to stay here and play in front of these fans and at this stadium. It's a good deal."

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said that the team envisions Beckett as one of the cornerstones of the pitching staff for years to come. Beckett would not have been eligible for free agency until after next season, but the Sox wanted to lock him up long-term before the price went up, especially with Curt Schilling saying he will retire following next season.

"We're very confident that Josh is going to be a top-of-the-rotation starter over the next many years, but certainly for the length of this contract," said Epstein. "And we were able to get numbers that we were comfortable with and that are fair to Josh. So, we didn't want to wait and let someone else change the market for us."

Beckett, who outlasted Kansas City's Mark Redman in a pitchers' duel on the strength of Manny Ramirez's solo homer in the fourth, said he's comfortable serving as Schilling's successor as staff ace.

"It's something I've done in the past and something I want," said Beckett. "I'm not content to be a No. 4 or a No. 5 starter. I want the ball in the first game of the playoffs or Opening Day and the competition of going against other No. 1 [starters].

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