KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Josh Beckett is at the center of another controversy. This one involves playing golf, not eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse during games.
Beckett played golf last Thursday, according to a report on 98.5 The Sports Hub. That was a day after the Red Sox announced the righthander had a strained latissimus muscle behind his right shoulder and would miss a start as a result.
Beckett was not placed on the disabled list or shut down from any physical activities. He started playing catch last Friday and has been cleared to start against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park Thursday.
It is common for pitchers to play golf during the season, especially on offdays. But playing while recovering from an injury is not standard procedure.
Beckett was not available for comment, having flown back to Boston ahead of the team to get rest for his start. Sending the next day’s starter ahead is common practice throughout baseball.
Beckett’s reported golfing partner, Clay Buchholz, declined comment on the matter.
“I’m not going to talk about any of that stuff,’’ he said.
General manager Ben Cherington and manager Bobby Valentine did not get a chance to speak to Beckett before he left.
“I’m not sure I can really comment on it other than to say that he had a sore lat,’’ Valentine said before a 4-3 loss to the Royals. “He wasn’t an injured player. I know that. We’ll take it from there.
“I’m sure that Josh wouldn’t do anything that’s going to jeopardize his team or his season. I know that.’’
Said Cherington, “Knowing Josh, I don’t think he would have done something to further injure himself.’’
Earlier in the day, during his weekly appearance on WEEI, Valentine said he was trying to “sort out’’ his feelings on the matter.
If Beckett played golf, added the manager, “I would say that was less than the best thing to do on that day off.’’
Adding to the issue is the fact that Beckett did not volunteer to pitch in Sunday’s 17-inning game against the Baltimore Orioles. The Red Sox were beaten, 9-6, when outfielder Darnell McDonald allowed three runs in a relief role.
If Beckett were able to play golf that Thursday, presumably he would have been able to pitch an inning or two in the game Sunday.
Youkilis getting closer
Kevin Youkilis, who is on the DL with a strained lower back, could be ready to start baseball activities when the team returns to Fenway Park Thursday.
The trainers told Valentine that Youkilis was “much better’’ Wednesday. He stayed behind in Boston when the team went on the three-day trip.
Jacoby Ellsbury, out with a partially dislocated shoulder, also took a step forward in his comeback by doing some weight-bearing exercises.
The other injured starting outfielder, Carl Crawford, will meet the team in Boston for the homestand. His strained left elbow is feeling better.
“He’s feeling real close to swinging [a bat] again,’’ Valentine said.
Finding a role
Scott Atchison went into Wednesday night having thrown 20 innings in relief, the most in baseball. He also had 13 appearances.
Not bad for a player who wasn’t sure he would make the team out of spring training. Atchison, 36, was not on the 40-man roster when he arrived at camp. But a series of injuries gave him a chance.
“It was a little bit of shock at first,’’ said Atchison. “But I felt like I had a chance, and once I showed them what I could do, it worked out.’’
Atchison said the heavy workload has been manageable.
“I feel good right now and I’ve been able to keep up,’’ he said. “You just need to watch yourself and not throw too much before games. I’ve bounced back pretty well.’’
He has pitched well, too. In those 20 innings, Atchison allowed three earned runs on 14 hits with four walks and 14 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting .197 against him.
“Atch has been, and I guess has always been, a very valuable member of the staff [because of] his versatility and his ability to come back,’’ Valentine said.
NESN analyst Jerry Remy, who has missed the last 11 games because of a sinus infection, is expected back in the booth for Thursday’s game . . . Dustin Pedroia, who was 1 for 4, is 14 of 43 over a 10-game hitting streak . . . Bruce Chen, who went 6 2/3 innings for the win, had not beaten the Sox since July 9, 2005, when he was with Baltimore . . . Will Middlebrooks, who left Wednesday’s game in the second inning with a tight left hamstring, was 0 for 4. He had hit safely in his previous five games . . . The Royals did not sell out any of the three games, drawing 18,339 for the series finale . . . Daniel Bard joined Kansas City’s Jeff Francoeur at Kauffman Stadium before the game to announce that Major League Baseball and the Players Trust would help Habitat for Humanity construct nine homes in the tornado-damaged communities of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Joplin, Mo. . . . Jon Lester will announce plans Thursday to help the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation raise funds . . . Johnny Damon will be with the Indians when they arrive at Fenway Park. The former Sox outfielder has played in eight games since signing in April.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.