Red Sox sign righty Beckett to three-year extension

Updated: July 19, 2006, 11:53 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- It didn't take Josh Beckett long to start paying dividends on his new contract extension.

 Josh Beckett

"Way to make us look good," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said Wednesday, grabbing a seat next to the team's next ace after the pitcher celebrated his three-year, $30 million deal by leading Boston to its second consecutive 1-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

"He threw the ball so well, I think Theo just gave him a three-year deal," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said in his postgame meeting with the media.

After reporters chuckled, he added: "No, I'm serious."

Well, almost serious. Actually, the deal was worked out on Tuesday night.

"He pitches good next time he might get a six-year," Francona joked. "I think it was pretty easy. He wanted to be here; we wanted him here."

Beckett is earning $4,325,000 this season but couldn't become a free agent until after 2007. The Red Sox locked him up for $30 million through the '09 season, with a club option for 2010 that could bring the total value of the deal to $40 million if he reaches certain incentives.

"This is where I want to play," said the 26-year-old Beckett, who is set up to inherit the No. 1 spot in the rotation if Curt Schilling retires as planned after the '07 season.

"Curt's already said next year will be his last year," Beckett said. Being the ace of the rotation "is obviously something I want."

A hard-throwing right-hander, Beckett was the MVP of the World Series for the Florida Marlins in 2003 when he shut out the New York Yankees in the sixth and final game. He was 15-8 with a 3.38 ERA last year for Florida despite ending his season Sept. 23 because of tendinitis in his right shoulder.

But he was headed to arbitration -- too expensive for the cost-cutting Marlins, who traded him to Boston on Thanksgiving in a seven-player trade.

Although he's been inconsistent and given up homers at an alarming rate this season -- 27 in his first 19 starts, far surpassing his previous career high of 16 -- Beckett is tied for the AL lead with 12 wins. In all, he is 12-5 with a 4.78 ERA this season.

"As much as he has accomplished in his career to this point at a young age, we think his best days are ahead of him," Epstein said. "His best days are going to be pretty special, so we want to make sure that he does that in a Red Sox uniform."

Epstein said an extension was first broached before the All-Star break.

"The talent was Day 1," he said. "It was just a matter of getting to know Josh a little bit as a person, see his work ethic, see how committed he was to personal accomplishment as well as team success.

"Once we saw that, there was no doubt that we wanted to extend him."

On Wednesday, Beckett showed why the Red Sox made him the heir to the top spot in their rotation. With his mind at ease over a deal that had been agreed to, but not announced, Beckett held the Royals to four hits and struck out seven in eight innings.

"It is something that has definitely been weighing on me this week," he said. "We've been talking about it for a while. Nice to get it over with and move on."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press