Red Sox's Beltre rolls dice, usually plays 3B without protective cup

To prevent severe pain and potentially life-altering injuries, most baseball players at all levels wear an athletic supporter — a jockstrap plus a hard plastic cup — over their sensitive male area.

At least, that's the belief.

Boston Red Sox infielder Adrian Beltre(notes) prefers to play third base au naturel, even though a bad-hop grounder hit him in a testicle when he played with the Seattle Mariners this past season. Left unprotected, Beltre's affected nugget swelled "to the size of a grapefruit" and he went on the 15-day disabled list.

Beltre, 30, says cups make him uncomfortable and he generally refuses to wear them. Beltre looks at it like this: He mostly has gone without a cup since the Dodgers drafted him at age 16, and he just had his first-ever disruption down there.

He must trust his hands, which have helped him win two Gold Gloves.

From Dan Shaughnessy's column in the Boston, ahem, Globe:

"They say I'm crazy not to wear the cup," Beltre said. "But I say, if the ball's going to hit me there [once] every 11 1/2 years, I'll take my chances.'' [...]

Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu insisted Beltre wear a cup when he came back from the injury. It didn't last long.

"I wore it for a couple of days so they think I'm wearing it,'' said Beltre. "After that, I stopped. At the end of the year, I was back to natural.''

But why on Earth would he go back to the hot corner without protection?

"That's a good question,'' Beltre said.

Buried near the end of Shaughnessy's piece was another revelation:

At least three starting infielders on the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins went commando. Exception: Third baseman Mike Lowell(notes), for now a Beltre teammate.

"In 2003, we had an infield with Derrek Lee(notes), Luis Castillo(notes) and Alex Gonzalez, and none of them wore a cup,'' Lowell said. "But I've got to believe it should be mandatory. I've worn one since I was 7. I'd never play without one.''

Lowell, who had surgery for testicular cancer in '99, joked that, "You could saw my cup in half and it would still work."

Beltre, who is married with two kids, knows what happens better than most when an errant grounder meets the family jewels. Yet, he's still circumspect about the value of protection. The Red Sox, who are paying him $9 million this season, want him to reconsider. Of course they want him to reconsider.

"I don't know yet," Beltre said. "I'm going to try it in spring training and see how it goes. I should, but it just doesn't seem comfortable. I tried to wear it before, but I just don't feel right. It just isn't comfortable."

The guy's got gonads for playing free and loose like that.