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Defiant Josh Beckett just doesn’t get it

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Josh Beckett’s rough night was over after just 2 1/3 innings.

What you wanted to hear from Josh Beckett was, “Yeah, given that I missed a start with the lat muscle, I shouldn’t have gone out and played golf. I know now how that looks to the fans and I need to exercise better judgment in the future.’’

But what we heard from Beckett when asked if he had any regrets about playing golf was, “None. I spend my off days the way I want to spend them.’’

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When pressed, he said, “My off day is my off day.’’

There’s something that Josh Beckett just isn’t getting.

Fans are upset because he played golf despite missing a start with tightness in his latissimus muscle behind his pitching shoulder.

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Beckett said he understood the fan reaction - loud booing after Bobby Valentine came out to get him after he allowed seven runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings in an 8-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians Thursday night.

Asked if the booing was directed at him or the team for playing so poorly, he said, “It was directed at me. I pitched like [expletive]. That’s what happens. Smart fans.’’

Let’s try it another way: Do people have the right to question him for playing golf?

“Not on my off day. We get 18 off days a year. I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves,’’ Beckett said.

He’s sticking to that.

He said he felt fine. He said he was merely flat, his cutter and two-seamer weren’t moving.

Valentine hypothesized that it was because Beckett had too much time off between starts.

Catcher Kelly Shoppach said he didn’t want to make excuses, but sometimes a long layoff can lead to pitches lacking crispness.

Maybe it was his lat?

No one would ever admit that.

Beckett is part of this incredibly poor start by the Red Sox’ rotation.

They have a 6.06 ERA, 7.24 at home.

The bullpen again pitched very well, allowing one run over 6 2/3 innings. The bullpen has a 1.66 ERA in May.

“It’s killing the bullpen,’’ Beckett said of a rotation that is averaging 5 2/3 innings per start. “The bullpen did an unbelievable job. You can’t expect them to keep going out and doing that. I thought our position players played good defense. A lot of those balls hit off me are too hard. You can’t catch those.’’

Beckett feels someone needs to step up and get the rotation rolling. It needed to be him.

“Somebody’s got to start that,’’ he said. “I don’t know. For me it felt a lot like five starts ago [against Detroit]. Everything was flat and in the middle. Some of the other guys have started to turn the corner.’’

Is it because of a change in catchers, or the fact the Sox have their third pitching coach in three years?

“No. We’re big boys, we have to make adjustments,’’ Beckett said. “When things are clicking for me I can make an adjustment from one pitch to the next. Everything tonight was in the middle and flat.’’

It was one of those rare occasions when a player could control the news cycle.

If Beckett pitched well, Golfgate would go away. Pitch poorly and it would linger.

Beckett was touched for three runs in the second inning, two coming on a homer to right by No. 9 hitter Jack Hannahan. The crowd booed.

In the third he allowed a home run to Jason Kipnis, an RBI double to Shin-Soo Choo, and then another double by Michael Brantley that knocked in two more runs.

It was 7-1 Cleveland at that point.

Valentine was cheered when he came out to get Beckett.

Valentine said afterward that he had no knowledge of anything bothering Beckett physically. It was simply bad pitching.

“The one thing that I can say about Josh Beckett is he’s a professional,’’ said Clay Buchholz, who came to his golf buddy’s defense before the start. “He’s not going to do anything to make him not be ready to go out and do his job.

“That’s an off day and that gets him away from the field and if he likes to do that, that’s what he likes to do. I think that’s his decision. I don’t think he’s going to do anything to make himself unable to go out and pitch.’’

Yet that was the perception. Talk radio has had a field day with this. If Beckett was OK to play golf, could he have pitched in the 17-inning game against Baltimore Sunday? Valentine said no before the game.

Valentine also said, “I’ve never seen a pitcher get hurt playing golf.’’

The manager said he spoke to Beckett about the golf outing and that Beckett was ready to go.

And Buchholz, who enters Friday night’s start with a 9.09 ERA, kept defending Beckett.

“I don’t think it was a big deal at all,’’ Buchholz said. “People feel differently than I do, I guess. Just like last year, the whole beer and chicken thing wouldn’t have been a story if we would have won and went to playoffs. So it’s just there’s always got to be something to talk about. I think that’s just what it comes down to.

“I think everybody does [have to watch what they do], but to a point where if they think it’s going to be something that’s going to hurt the team, then nobody’s going to do it. But that was just an off day. I believe that an off day is that a guy can get away from the field because there’s only a couple of them throughout the season. If JB was hurting really bad then that wouldn’t have been an issue.’’

But shouldn’t you exercise a little discretion?

I mean, you already have the beer and fried chicken stigma.

You didn’t tell your manager about the lat discomfort before he left you in for 126 pitches.

Then you have to skip a start.

And then you play golf?

Beckett was supposed to be this team’s pitching leader, but right now he’s nowhere close to that.

He is making $15.75 million this year and for two more seasons. The highest-paid players need to perform and be held to a higher standard.

So Beckett is here for better or worse, and the change has to come from within.

Was his lat OK? We’ll probably never know.

Did golf hinder the healing progress? Again, how can we ever know?

What we do know is the results were horrible.

Beckett needed to pitch extremely well, not only for himself but for a team that is dying and dying fast. The Red Sox are a last-place team and they look like a last-place team with performances like that.

It was great that he blamed himself for pitching lousy. But take responsibility for all of it. Think it through.

Playing golf when you’re out with an injury looks bad.

Does anyone get that?

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.
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