Once again, finger points Beckett out

The Baltimore Sun

The Boston Red Sox knew all about the quality of Josh Beckett's right arm when they traded for him before the 2006 season. They also were aware of the fingers that came with it, the ones prone to blisters.

Accept the good with the bad and hope for the best.

Beckett was the majors' only seven-game winner when he took the mound last weekend for a start against the Orioles at Fenway Park. But he couldn't build on his impressive start, leaving after four innings because of a cut on the upper pad on his right middle finger.

Technically, it's not a blister. It's called an "avulsion," and the Red Sox are willing to explain the difference to anyone interested.

Whatever the name, it's serious enough that Beckett was scratched from Friday's start against the Atlanta Braves, and the disabled list remains a possibility.

Beckett, stalled by countless blister issues with the Florida Marlins, has been using Stan's Rodeo Cream, a skin-toughening balm, and zinc oxide. Asked on Thursday to rate the healing process on a scale of one to 10, Beckett said, "It's been a 10 first day to second day, second day to third day."

That's good news for a team that probably needs Beckett's middle finger to run away with the American League East, but he still could miss at least one more start.

Sour sound

There are a few traits associated with young outfielder Lastings Milledge that concern the New York Mets, including his cocky attitude, immaturity and penchant for showing up late to games last season.

Now you can add his taste in music.

Milledge, 22, has angered team officials by moonlighting as a producer for rap artist and childhood friend Manny D. Most disturbing to them is how his voice can be heard on a track entitled "Bend Ya Knees," which includes the N-word and derogatory and crude language about women.

By comparison, they'd rather he didn't run out ground balls.

"We don't approve of the lyrics," said Mets general manager Omar Minaya, who is considering disciplinary action. "He has the right to produce a record, but he understands why we feel this way."

Backing it up

Pretty much everyone in the baseball industry raised a collective eyebrow when the Kansas City Royals signed Gil Meche to a five-year, $55 million contract last winter. It seemed like an extravagant sum for a pitcher who won more than 11 games only once in six seasons with the Seattle Mariners.

Meche might not prove to be a bargain, but he's been a pretty good investment so far. He had eight quality starts in his first nine tries, posting a 1.91 ERA while settling for a 3-1 record.

Batter up

Former Orioles pitcher Kurt Ainsworth still hasn't submitted his retirement papers, but it became obvious last week that he's changed careers.

Ainsworth visited the San Francisco Giants' clubhouse on Tuesday. Once their top draft choice, he was representing a bat company he co-owns with Jack Marucci, the head athletic trainer at LSU, his alma mater.

Ainsworth appeared in 19 games with the Giants before they traded him to the Orioles in 2003 as part of the Sidney Ponson deal. Shoulder injuries limited him to 10 games with the Orioles over parts of two seasons, and he gave up baseball at age 28 after his fourth operation.

"I don't miss baseball at all until I turn the game on at night and see the games from San Francisco," he said. "I told my wife I might as well have retired when I was traded to Baltimore."

Quote of the week

"We don't like this. No team likes this. The policy seems to be working. These cheats are getting caught."

Minaya, on the seven pitchers in the Mets' organization who have been suspended for performance-enhancing drugs since the start of the 2006 season.

Quick hit

Royals officials traveled to Greensburg, Kan., on Tuesday, where a tornado wiped out much of the town. Frank White signed a man's pickup truck, or what was left of it.


Compiled from interviews and other newspapers' reports.

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