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Lester, Francona speak up for Beckett

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  February 19, 2010 05:00 PM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox looked more like a football team today. The training staff set up a series or orange cones and little video cameras and put the pitchers and catchers though a series of sprints designed to test their conditioning.

Most of the players went through it cheerfully enough, although there were plenty who looked about ready to fall over when they were finished. Pitchers are used to running long distances slowly to build endurance, not sprinting.

That was about the extent of the action on the field. The players spent the morning getting their annual physicals and meeting one-on-one with manager Terry Francona.

Jon Lester did a press conference and spoke about the importance of the club retaining Josh Beckett.

"I think it would be a huge loss for this organization for him not to come back, obviously, on the field, a lot, too,” Lester said. “But definitely in the clubhouse would be a guy missed in there.”

Francona repeated those sentiments, calling Beckett the leader of the pitching staff.

Lester said he has no regrets about the contract he signed last year in the wake of the lucrative deals given to Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander. Lester's deal (five years, $30 million) is looking pretty good from a Red Sox point of view.

Lester also said he remains cancer-free.

Daisuke Matsuzaka got a good report on his sore back during the physical. He will be checked again tomorrow and then a decision will be made as to when he starts throwing again. It could be soon, perhaps this weekend.

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