Sports

Red Sox wrap up Beckett through 2014

The Boston Red Sox appear to have the top of their rotation set for the next five years. The rest of it is in pretty good shape, too.

The Red Sox agreed Monday to a $68 million, four-year contract extension with No. 1 starter Josh Beckett, a deal that figures to keep him in Boston pitching alongside free agent acquisition John Lackey through 2014. Former Bellarmine Prep star Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are also under the team’s control for five more seasons.

“It’s hard to have an elite organization without excellent starting pitching,” Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. “When you have that starting pitching, you don’t want to let it get away.”

The 29-year-old Beckett has a 106-68 record with a 3.81 ERA during his career. In 14 career postseason starts, he is 7-3 with a 3.07 ERA and three shutouts — one behind Christy Mathweson for the most in major-league history.

First pitches

 • A hundred years after President William Howard Taft started a baseball tradition with a low ceremonial first pitch, President Barack Obama went in the other direction Monday, sailing a high, wide toss to Ryan Zimmerman at the Washington Nationals’ home opener.

“I was a little disappointed with the pitch,” Obama said. “Fortunately, Zimmerman has a tall reach.”

 • Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach’s first pitch before the Texas Rangers’ opener impressed Nolan Ryan.

Ryan, a Hall of Fame pitcher who’s now the Rangers’ president, says it was one of the “best first pitches” he’s ever seen and believes Staubach was “holding back.”

 • Darryl Strawberry’s excitement over throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for the New York Mets was contained by his concern for troubled friend Dwight Gooden, who was arrested March 23 in New Jersey for driving under the influence of drugs and child endangerment.

“I’m just praying for him and his family,” Strawberry said.

Extra bases

The Mets placed shortstop Jose Reyes and first baseman Daniel Murphy on the 15-day disabled list. … Opening-day baseball salaries grew by 1.8 percent to $3.3 million. … Average attendance for spring training games went up 5.6 percent following a 7.7 percent drop last year. … Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said the club is talking to slugger Prince Fielder about a long-term extension.

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