Beltre heads to LA for birth of child

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In a season ruined by injuries, the Boston Red Sox could always count on Adrian Beltre being in the lineup. Now, he might have played his last game for them.

The Red Sox third baseman — and most consistent player — left Boston for Los Angeles before Friday night's scheduled game against the New York Yankees to be with his wife, Sandra, who was about to give birth to their third child. The game was postponed by rain and rescheduled as part of a day-night doubleheader Saturday.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona doesn't expect Beltre back for any of the season-ending three-game series. And Francona doesn't know if Beltre will ever wear a Boston uniform again.

Coming off a mediocre season with Seattle, Beltre signed a one-year contract as a free agent with Boston, hoping to boost his chances for a lucrative, long-term deal after this season. The Red Sox, unsure if Beltre would rebound from his .265 batting average with eight homers and 44 RBIs for the Mariners, didn't want to make a multiyear commitment.

"He was pretty honest about what he was doing here," Francona said before Friday's game. "He was coming kind of on a make-good (deal). He made pretty good. It worked out for everybody."

Francona said he would like Beltre to return but doesn't know what will happen.

Beltre played 154 games, many of them with a hamstring injury. He has 28 homers with 102 RBIs and leads the Red Sox with a .321 batting average. He took over the third-base job from Mike Lowell, who hit .290 with 17 homers and 75 RBIs last year. The Red Sox worked out an offseason trade that would have sent Lowell to Texas, but it fell apart because of a thumb injury that required surgery.

Lowell played sparingly until first baseman Kevin Youkilis was lost for the season with a thumb injury. Youkilis played his last game on Aug. 2 and Lowell has been Boston's primary first baseman since then. He was in the cleanup spot before the game was called Friday night, hitting .231 with five homers and 24 RBIs.

Lowell plans to retire after this season and the Red Sox will honor him before Saturday's doubleheader at "Thanks, Mike Day."

The Red Sox obtained him from the Florida Marlins with Josh Beckett before the 2006 season and he was the MVP in the 2007 World Series, Boston's second championship in four years.

"When he first came here (he was) very stabilizing," Francona said. "'07 was kind of the culmination of it. What he did in the World Series, regardless of whether he was the MVP or not, what he did was pretty special."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was a catcher for New York in 1998 when Lowell was called up to the majors for the first time with them.

"When he got called up with the Yankees (I was) just thinking, what a great kid, a guy with a lot of heart that was eager to learn and he struck me as a special guy," Girardi said. "Not only has he been a special guy in his career. He's been a special player, and I think that people in Boston fell in love with this guy because of the total package you get when you see Mike Lowell."

If Beltre leaves, the Red Sox will need another third baseman. But Francona was impressed by what he gave the team even though it failed to reach the playoffs.

"The first month of the season, every time he saw me he thought he wasn't playing so he kind of avoided me," Francona said. "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 down there (in the clubhouse), they love him, myself included.

"He took some of the most ferocious hacks you've ever seen. He'd square up balls. He ran every ball out. He's a treat, very accountable."

But on Friday, Beltre headed to Los Angeles. On Saturday, the man he replaced at third base will be in the spotlight.

Somehow, Lowell is still in Boston after nearly being traded and will be in the lineup after spending most of the season on the bench.

"It's Mike Lowell Day, right?" Francona said. "He's playing. If they give out bobbleheads, he's definitely playing."