FORT MYERS, Fla. - Red Sox pitchers will not be drinking beer in the clubhouse during games this season. In fact, there won’t be any beer at all.
Manager Bobby Valentine told the team yesterday that he has banned alcohol in the clubhouse and on team flights returning to Boston.
The edict was expected, given the revelations last fall that starting pitchers Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, and John Lackey drank beer and ate fast-food chicken while games were going on.
But Valentine may have done it anyway, as alcohol was banned from the Mets clubhouse when he managed the team from 1996-2002.
“It’s just what I’ve always done,’’ he said. “I’m comfortable with it that way.’’
The Red Sox are the 19th major league team to ban alcohol in the clubhouse, a list that includes the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, and world champion Cardinals.
The alcohol ban on Boston-bound flights is a safety issue. Those charter flights typically arrive well after midnight and the players drive home from Fenway Park afterward.
Valentine was asked how the new rules were received.
“You mean like a standing ovation or booing? I didn’t get either of those,’’ he said. “It was probably somewhere right in between.’’
Valentine isn’t expecting any resistance from the players - not that they have any choice in the matter.
“What would happen if they got traded to St. Louis?’’ said Valentine. “Would they refuse the trade? Or New York? Or one of the other 19 teams, or however many teams there are? I don’t know. I doubt it. I don’t know what kind of pushback you could get.’’
David Ortiz, the team’s longest-tenured player, said he supported the ban.
“It doesn’t matter,’’ said Ortiz. “We’re not here to drink; we’re here to play baseball. This ain’t no bar.
“This is an organization, a place that needs a lot of athleticism. Alcohol has nothing to do with that. We have alcohol in our houses. If you want to drink, drink at home.’’
Ortiz said earlier in the week that it wasn’t right for the pitchers to be drinking during games and that he spoke to them about it.
Lester and Buchholz have apologized for their actions. Beckett admitted only to a “lapse in judgment,’’ while Lackey has refused to address the matter.
Red Sox owner John Henry and team president Larry Lucchino did not comment on the subject, saying Valentine would speak for the team. In October, before Valentine was named manager, Lucchino said the team’s alcohol policy was being reviewed and the new manager’s input would be considered.
General manager Ben Cherington said Valentine recommended the change and he fully supported the idea.
Beer drinking has long been part of the baseball culture in Boston.
Last Sept. 25, when the Sox beat the Yankees to avoid a three-game sweep in New York, former general manager Theo Epstein greeted players arriving in the clubhouse while holding a beer. Three days later, when the season came crashing to an end in Baltimore, several players sat at their lockers nursing beers.
But for some of the players, particularly those not with the team last season, the alcohol ban was not significant news.
“Everything I heard was a positive today,’’ said new closer Andrew Bailey. “Bobby gave us the rules. It was nothing unusual.’’
Bailey’s former team, Oakland, also does not allow alcohol in its clubhouse.