FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This represented more than just pitchers and catchers reporting day at brand new JetBlue Park. More even than new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine's first official spring training news conference.
No, for Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, Sunday became Fried Chicken and Beer Inquisition Day.
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Boston's co-aces met reporters, one at a time, and faced myriad questions concerning their roles in the team's memorable 2011 collapse. Many of the queries centered around allegations, published in The Boston Globe last October, that Beckett and Lester didn't condition properly last season -- contributing to their poor Septembers -- and often ate fried chicken, drank beer and played video games during contests they didn't start.
The men expressed different degrees of contrition, with lefthander Lester more apologetic than Beckett, his righthanded elder. But neither man pleaded fully innocent to the charges.
"It's something I'm not proud of," Lester said. "The biggest thing is, you learn from your mistakes."
"I had lapses in judgment," said Beckett, who added that "there's also some ill feelings toward some people" for the public disclosures.
Beckett, 31, put up a 5.48 ERA in four starts last September, losing his final two starts of the year to Baltimore. Lester, 28, tallied a 5.40 ERA in six September starts.
Both men stressed that their poor pitching, rather than any off-the-field issue, ranked as their greatest transgression, and that they always were prepared to pitch. Beckett, however, conceded that he "put on a little bit of weight" late in the season and added that he was "distracted" during the same time period. He wouldn't detail the reason, although his wife, Holly, gave birth to the couple's first child, a daughter, the day after the 2011 regular season ended.
Lester said he would make a greater effort to spend time in the dugout during his non-pitching days and that he understood that fans would be upset with him.
"I don't blame them for being mad," Lester said. "We stunk. I stunk. I take complete responsibility for it . . . I think a lot of them think we don't care and we're just a bunch of babies and whatever. But we do care. We want to win."