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Red Sox notebook

Beltre picking a good time to hit market

He’ll be wanted man in free agency

Conditions were clearly not good for playing baseball last night at Fenway Park, but the Yankees’ Phil Hughes found a dry spot in front of the Green Monster to get in some tossing. Conditions were clearly not good for playing baseball last night at Fenway Park, but the Yankees’ Phil Hughes found a dry spot in front of the Green Monster to get in some tossing. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / October 2, 2010

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Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre left town in a hurry yesterday, long before last night’s rainout against the Yankees, rushing to California for the birth of his third child. He won’t be back in uniform before the season ends tomorrow, if ever.

Unless the Red Sox sign him, Beltre will become a free agent five days after the World Series and will not lack suitors after hitting .321 with 49 doubles, 28 home runs, and 102 RBIs.

Beltre signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Red Sox in January, turning down a multiyear offer from Oakland to try to improve his value and then reenter the market.

The plan worked well as Beltre was an All-Star for the first time, had a remarkably consistent and productive year at the plate, and played Gold Glove-level defense.

“He was pretty honest about what he was doing here,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “He was coming here on a make-good [contract]. He made pretty good. Worked out for everybody. Where it goes, that will be interesting.’’

General manager Theo Epstein said he is interested in retaining Beltre. But until this year, Beltre had spent his entire career on the West Coast.

“I will give everybody a chance,’’ Beltre said this week. “I honestly don’t know what will happen. I have to do what’s best for my family. I came out here by myself and they stayed home. I want everybody together now.’’

If 2010 was it for Beltre in Boston, he leaves behind a sterling legacy.

Beltre had 53 multihit games and entered last night ranked in the top 10 in the American League in batting average, RBIs, hits, total bases, doubles, and home runs.

On several occasions, Beltre landed on one knee after hitting a home run and he drew laughs by chasing teammates in mock anger when they rubbed his head.

“The guy is an amazing player,’’ second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “I hope we keep him. He plays hard all the time. He’s a beast.’’

Beltre needed a few weeks to get acclimated to Boston. Then he quickly became a popular figure in the clubhouse.

“You kind of have to get to know him a little bit. But once that happened, he became more vocal in the dugout. He became a leader on the field. If you ask everybody [on the team], they love him. Myself included,’’ Francona said. “He was a real treat.

“If guys like Beltre are leaders, you’re going in the right direction. It’s hard not to look up to him if you’re a teammate of his.’’

Beltre intended to play the final three games but those plans changed when Sandra Beltre went into labor.

“She’s getting ready to have this kid and he’s leaving in a hurry,’’ Francona said.

The Beltres, who live in the Los Angeles area, are having a daughter.

Two on tap today
After a delay of three hours, last night’s game against the Yankees was postponed by rain. The teams will play a separate-admission doubleheader today.

The first game is scheduled to start at 4:10 p.m., the second at 9:05. Tickets for last night’s game will be valid for the second game.

Tim Wakefield will face Andy Pettitte in Game 1. The nightcap has Daisuke Matsuzaka scheduled to face A.J. Burnett.

The rain let up at one point last night and the field was prepared for a 10 p.m. start before another downpour moved in.

“That was fun,’’ Francona said.

Buchholz will sit
Clay Buchholz will not start today because of a stiff lower back that he tweaked while going through his usual routine yesterday. The injury is muscle soreness and not considered serious. Wakefield will start in Buchholz’s place.

“If we threw him tomorrow and he ended the season with a bad back, we’d have been kicking ourselves,’’ Francona said. “We nixed that in a hurry.’’

Buchholz finishes his season 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA, which will end up second in the AL to Seattle’s Felix Hernandez (2.27).

“Talk about a breakout year,’’ Francona said. “That’s not going anywhere. He’s going to get better.’’

The decision also gives Wakefield a chance to start what could be his final game for the Sox. The 44-year-old righthander is signed through the end of 2011, but is 4-10 with a 5.20 ERA this season.

Wakefield has appeared in 31 games, 18 starts, but has gone unused for long periods and expressed displeasure in his role as an emergency starter and mop-up reliever.

Wakefield is under contract for only $2 million next season, an amount that would be easy for the Sox to forfeit in return for roster flexibility.

Wakefield is the franchise leader in innings and starts and is second in games pitched and strikeouts. Only Roger Clemens and Cy Young, with 192, have won more games for the Sox than Wakefield, who is 179-160 over 16 seasons.

Back and better
Backup catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was back with the team after undergoing surgery on his left thumb Tuesday in Cleveland. Dr. Thomas Graham told Saltalamacchia that he should be ready for baseball activities in 10 weeks after he repaired a torn ligament that detached from the bone. “It was just going to get worse. It’s good that we fixed it,’’ Saltalamacchia said . . . Lefthander Felix Doubront, out since Aug. 31 with a strained chest muscle near his shoulder, threw fastballs and changeups off the bullpen mound and felt fine. He will advance to breaking pitches tomorrow. “Everything is great,’’ said the 22-year-old . . . The Yankees arrived with 56 players, coaches, and staff members who needed locker space. That was a record, according to visiting clubhouse manager Tom McLaughlin, who somehow wedged everybody into the small space he oversees below the third base grandstand . . . The Yankees have not yet named a starter for the final game of the series. They could use an assortment of relievers or let Phil Hughes pitch a few innings as a playoff tuneup.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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