FORT MYERS, Fla. – One of the three aces of the Boston Red Sox pitching staff isn’t sure they have any.

Josh Beckett doesn’t worry what label you give him, Jon Lester or John Lackey. What matters is the impressive rotation those pitchers lead.

”I don’t even know what ace is? I mean, is that an acronym for something?” Beckett said Sunday. ”I’ve always kind of tried to figure that out.”

Opponents should have a tough time solving the puzzle of how to beat three pitchers who each could be the No. 1 starter for many teams. Beckett is 49-23 with a 3.71 ERA the past three seasons, Lester is 31-14 with a 3.31 ERA in his two full seasons, and Lackey, the oldest of the three at just 31, is 69-38 with a 3.49 ERA the past five seasons.

All are extremely competitive, but Beckett, Manager Terry Francona said, is ”the leader” of the pitching staff.

”That’s a huge honor, especially in an organization so rich as this one and with as much talent as we have,” Beckett said. ”There is a lot of responsibility that comes with that, and I don’t think that it’s what you say. I think it’s what you do.

”I don’t think that I corner people and tell them this is what you have to do. I think I just go about my work and (Francona) sees that and he just kind of expects people to fall in line.”

Beckett is in the final year of a contract that pays him $42 million over four years before performance bonuses are added. Lackey signed an $82.5 million, five-year deal in December as a free agent from the Los Angeles Angels. At the time of the signing, General Manager Theo Epstein told Beckett to ignore speculation he was on his way out of Boston.

”I don’t think that he would have contacted me if he didn’t have some good intentions there,” Beckett said. 

TIGERS: Johnny Damon completed his physical, clearing the way for the Tigers to finalize a one-year contract with the outfielder, a person familiar with the negotiations said.

Another person familiar with the situation said Saturday night that the Tigers and Damon agreed on an $8 million, one-year deal, subject to a physical. 

ATHLETICS: Pitcher Justin Duchscherer, who missed all of last season after having surgery on his right elbow and being treated for clinical depression, didn’t throw during the first workout for Oakland pitchers and catchers in Phoenix.

Duchscherer has pain in his lower back and is likely to undergo a procedure today. 

TWINS: American League MVP Joe Mauer reported to spring training without a contract extension in place.

Mauer hasn’t talked specifics about the negotiations all offseason and said that won’t change now that spring training is beginning.

”I’m not going to get into that,” the catcher said. ”It would just open up a can of worms.”

Mauer is entering the final year of his contract and the Twins are trying to get a long-term extension done before the regular season begins. 

DODGERS: Pitcher Vicente Padilla took part in the team’s first workout of the spring and showed no effects of a gunshot wound to his upper right thigh. He said he feels 100 percent healthy with no restrictions.

Padilla said he was practicing with a small handgun on Nov. 3 in his native Nicaragua when the weapon jammed. He said a friend was trying to fix the problem when the gun fired.

The bullet went into Padilla’s upper right thigh and came out through the back of his leg. 

DIAMONDBACKS: Third baseman Mark Reynolds said his agent is in ”pretty heavy talks” on a new contract with Arizona.

Reynolds said the team wants a new contract for cost certainty and he wants it for job security. 

WHITE SOX: Manager Ozzie Guillen said Mark Buehrle will start the season opener April 5 against Cleveland. Jake Peavy, the former San Diego ace and Cy Young Award winner acquired in a trade last season, will follow Buehrle in the rotation. 

BLUE JAYS: Toronto placed reliever Dirk Hayhurst on the 60-day disabled list, and he is expected to miss most of the season after having right shoulder surgery Feb. 5.

The 28-year-old Hayhurst damaged the labrum in his throwing shoulder during offseason workouts. 

CARLOS DELGADO, a free-agent first baseman, is expected to be sidelined for four months after undergoing hip surgery in Colorado.

Delgado played in 26 games for the New York Mets last season before undergoing hip surgery in May. He played winter ball in Puerto Rico and was working out while trying to latch on with a team, but his hip was still bothering him.


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