Winning, not contract on Beckett's mind

Winning, not contract on Beckett's mind

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Known for his steely-eyed focus every fifth day -- not to mention the four in between -- the prospect of a "contract year" won't deter Josh Beckett one way or the other.

Making his first public comments since early November, Boston's ace right-hander vowed not to be side-tracked by anything in 2010 other than trying to win.

"That stuff is going to work itself out," Beckett said. "I'm really not too concerned with it. I don't really have anything to say about contract stuff today or probably any time during Spring Training. I definitely don't want to let that be the focus of what I'm trying to do."

Spring Training is a time when general manager Theo Epstein typically tries to work on contract extensions. What if every avenue is exhausted and there is no new deal for Beckett? Could Beckett be unfazed by that?

"Absolutely," said Beckett. "Yes. I'm not going to worry about it. Once it's done, it's done."

Back in December, the Red Sox added the pitcher that deems the most similar to Beckett. John Lackey signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract to come to Boston. Just as the Red Sox were completing that move, general manager Theo Epstein sent Beckett a text message, making sure he knew that the organization still placed a value on trying to keep him long-term.

Beckett appreciated the gesture.

"Yeah, I don't think he would have contacted me if he didn't have some good intentions there," Beckett said. "If not, he probably would have just left it alone."

By the way, Beckett is a big fan of the Lackey signing.

"I think it's great," said Beckett. "Obviously he's a good guy. I haven't known him very long. But the little I've gotten to know him here, he's a good guy. Obviously he's a really good competitor and a guy you like to see out there pitching for your team."

The same could be said for Beckett, who has as much respect in his clubhouse for the way he pitches as how he approaches his job.

"Beckett's important to a lot of people in there," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He's the leader of that staff. He's earned that respect, and there's a lot that comes with it. People look up to him, and I think he's proud of that, and he should be."

What does Beckett think when he hears his manager cite him as a leader?

"That's a huge honor especially in an organization so rich as this one and with as much talent as we have," Beckett said. "There is a lot of responsibility that comes with that. I don't think that it's what you say. I think it's what you do. I think that's more what Tito is talking about. I don't think that I corner people and tell them this is what you have to do. I think I just go about my work and Tito sees that and he just kind of expects people to fall in line where they are."

This will be Beckett's fifth season with the Red Sox, and he clearly enjoys all that entails pitching in such an intense market.

"Like I said, it's a blast," said Beckett. "Playing in Boston is fun. You've got 50,000 people plus another two million watching you, whether you're playing or not. That's fun. There's not too many places like that. As far as a professional deal, there's been some ups and downs. Like I said, I've weathered some storms better than others."

If 2007 (4-0, 1.20 ERA in the postseason) was the pinnacle of Beckett's time in Boston thus far and '06 (36 home runs allowed) was the low point, last year (17-6, 3.76 ERA) was somewhere in the middle. The righty hopes to be a little more consistent this year.

There might not be quite as much pressure on him, considering the depth of a rotation that also includes Lackey, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield and Clay Buchholz. Can pitchers feed off each other?

"Yeah, I definitely think you can do that," said Beckett. "But the focus can't be on what the other guys are doing. You really have to focus on what you're trying to do, and that's execute quality pitches consecutively. That's all you can control. You can't control anything else. You can't control if the umpire calls it a strike or if the guy hits the ball or a guy catches the ball. You can't control any of that. You just worry about what you can control."

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.