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What we learned in Fort Myers Monday

02.16.10 at 2:14 am ET
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Much like in spring trainings past, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and pitcher Josh Beckett were the center of attention Monday. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The first player on the field at the Red Sox’ minor league training facility Monday was Jon Lester. Josh Beckett was the last player to exit the facility’s diamonds. In between the pair of pitchers the likes of Clay Buchholz, Manny Delcarmen, Kevin Youkilis, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon came, worked out, and left.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein mixed in a meeting with reporters, and Bruiser the dog (a staple at the complex) roamed everywhere from the equipment truck to the alley ways of the makeshift big league locker room.

On the surface, it would appear to be a fairly uneventful day, perhaps only marking the moment in the 2010 season when players find themselves the most relaxed. Yet there were some aspects of the pre-pitchers and catchers that offered some insight to what awaits …

BUCHHOLZ: He hasn’t watched the video of his playoff performance, yet it left the kind of impression that might help the continued construction of an ace. It also doesn’t seem to hurt that Buchholz looks the part now, as well.

The pitcher walked into work Monday weighing 200 pounds, which was 15 pounds heavier than what he pitched at last season. By the time Buchholz left his workout he was down to 198, offering a reminder that he carried a different metabolism than that of his former linebacker-playing, 230-pound brother. Yet even though life at two bills might be fleeting, the strength and durability the righty is starting at offers continued optimism.

And the fact that it recently translated into a batting practice session at the University of California-Irvine in which the Anteaters managed just three foul balls suggests there might be something to this new body of Buchholz’s.

BARD: The reliever threw his seventh bullpen session at about 85 percent (which, as one reporter pointed out, would logically translate into 85 mph fastballs. He wasn’t thrilled with his command, but the overall outcome was encouraging. And then there is the changeup.

Bard identifies the change as a priority for the spring, having thrown it an estimated 20 times last season, including three occasions in the playoffs that would pay big dividends. He has had the pitch (which he compares to Beckett’s hard changeup), but he hasn’t had the mindset. That is what the reliever wants to change.

“There were so many situations where I would think, ‘OK, this kind of calls for for a changeup’, but if there’s a guy on second, an important run, I don’t want to get beat on my third-best pitch,” Bard explained. “I want to make it this year so I don’t have that feeling. If the situation calls for a changeup I have the confidence to get an out on it.”

BECKETT: Fresh off a weekend trip to the Daytona 500, Beckett executed his sixth bullpen session with great success. With trainer Mike Reinold, strength and conditioning coach Dave Page, and bullpen coach Gary Tuck looking on, the Sox’ starter popped in 59 pitches to catcher Dusty Brown with impressive life on his offerings.

While Beckett has yet to address his future with the Red Sox, or if there has been talks regarding a contract extension, he has clearly come into camp hitting the ground running, appearing to be in excellent shape.

EPSTEIN: There was little to no drama Monday, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t potential for some eyebrow-raising at some point in spring training’s near future. And some of those issues that may be the cause for the impending intrigue were what Epstein touched on while holding an impromptu get-together with whatever media was in attendance.

  • On Victor Martinez’s declaration to the Boston Herald that he wanted to sign with the Red Sox: “If we were to have a closed-door approach and an attitude where we didn’t want to talk to our players and hear what was on their minds and we didn’t care what they were feeling or thinking, then it would be a concern. But we have an open-door policy here. We’ll have lots of conversations about everything, how he’s feeling and what’s important to him and what’s on his mind, everything. I’m sure we’ll have discussions about it.”
  • On potential open spots on the roster: “It’s hard to answer because, in some ways, you could say the whole bench, as far as how it’s structured and how it’s going to line up. There are a lot of different combinations we could go with on the bench, but that doesn’t mean every spot on the bench is a roster spot that’s open. Maybe one or two there and one or two in the bullpen.”
  • On Mike Lowell’s presence on the team: “I don’t know that it will be that dicey. As I’ve said, it’s one of those things that will take care of itself. Mike’s priority is our priority, which is to get him healthy. Until that happens, there’s really not much that can be done. He’s going to be a little bit behind everybody else because of the surgery he had. we’re going to do everything we can to help get him healthy. Once he gets healthy, it will take care of itself. If he’s really impressive and impressive to other clubs, maybe something can be worked out. If not, I’m sure there’s nowhere else where Mike would rather take a bit of a lesser role than here.” (Note: Lowell is playing catch but can’t yet swing a bat due to his surgically repaired thumb).
  • On Daisuke Matsuzaka’s relationship with the organization: “We’ve found that players that have come from a long professional background in Japan have elements of their own training programs that are important to them. It’s an ongoing process trying to find that middle ground. I think there’s better communication now. He’s got something to prove. He wasn’t healthy last year. He needs to do what it takes to get ready for the season. He worked hard this winter but that doesn’t guarantee results on the field. It’s important to him that he have a good year. His attitude is great. Any inference that he and the club are battling one another, that’s just not true. His attitude is great. Now it’s just a matter of doing it on the field and toeing the rubber. We’ll see how that goes.” (Asked about Matsuzaka’s condition, Epstein said, “I only saw him for a couple of minutes but he’s clearly worked hard this winter and shed some pounds.”)
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