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What’s New With The Red Sox: Tuesday

03.03.10 at 2:47 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — “Nothing fancy, just the facts.” (I’ve been told by Rob Bradford that I am contractually obligated to lead with that statement.)

The Red Sox had one last day of workouts at the minor league training facility before packing their belongings and preparing to head up the road to City of Palms Park for the start of the exhibition calendar. News was scant, insofar as the next round of questions that looms about the club will be answered during spring training games, beginning with Wednesday’s day-night doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College.

Even so, some items came more clearly into view:

Jonathan Papelbon discussed his desire to achieve greatness, and the changes he’s making this spring to do so. He discussed tweaking his mental approach, while also identifying work on his split-finger fastball as a key to his success for the upcoming year.

‘€œI came into this spring training knowing what I had to do and being on a mission to do it, whereas other spring trainings, I hadn’€™t necessary come in that way,’€ said Papelbon. ‘€œThis spring, that was part of it ‘€“ being able to throw my split more, my slider more, making my adjustment to the hitters.

‘€œIt’€™s like riding a bike ‘€“ it’€™s always there in the back pocket, but you’€™ve just got to break it out and dust the rust off,’€ he continued. ‘€œI’€™ve kind of developed a really good feel for it out of the gate now. For me, that’€™s huge, because obviously that’€™s a feel pitch, a confidence pitch. It’€™s a pitch you have to have confidence to throw. For me, being able to come out here these first few sessions and throw it effectively has been a big confidence builder for me. I’€™m excited to keep building that throughout the spring.’€

Jed Lowrie said that, almost a year removed from surgery on his left wrist, the area still “hits a wall” after a couple of rounds of batting practice. He said that the strength of the area continues to improve, and that he is hopeful that he will continue to head in the right direction in his recovery. At the same time, he acknowledged that the start of the exhibition schedule will present him with a new set of tests for an injury that has been a source of frustration and difficulty dating to the 2008 season, when he first suffered the fracture.

Victor Martinez checked in with the Dennis & Callahan Show and reported that, yes, he still wants to remain with the Red Sox for years to come, but no, he and the Sox have not started talks about a potential extension. Martinez also talked about his increased comfort level with the Sox, his relationship with Jason Varitek, and his feelings about Fort Myers.

(It is worth noting that until the Indians relocated to Arizona for spring training last year, Martinez had spent almost all of his spring training career in Winter Haven, Fla., considered one of the, um, sleepier spring training sites — a characterization that is all the more dramatic now that Cypress Gardens (a cross between the 18th and 19th century British pleasure gardens and the early American amusement park) has shuttered. Cypress Gardens may have been most famous as the “birthplace of performance water skiing.” It is currently famous for representing a diversion from the “nothing fancy, just the facts” mantra that is preached in these quarters. Apologies for the tangent to the tangent.)

–While Casey Kelly will garner plenty of attention for his start against Northeastern in the first game on Wednesday, the top Sox pitching prospect is in camp just for the exposure to the environment. He stands no chance of making the big-league roster to start the year. Boof Bonser, on the other hand, could well factor into the major league team’s season-opening plans. On Wednesday night, he will get an inning of work in a start against BC. That outing will begin to let Bonser and the Sox know how his stuff is returning now that he is just over a year removed from arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder labrum. For more on Bonser, click here.

Kevin Youkilis, in his visit on the Dale & Holley Show, joined the chorus of Red Sox players who are taking offense at the notion that the team’s offense might represent a shortcoming.

“We’ve focused a lot [in interviews] on the defense this year,” he said. “Everywhere you hear is defense, defense, defense. I think a lot of us are getting [tired] of hearing about defense, because we like to talk about our offense, too.

Mike Lowell was scheduled to take outdoor batting practice for the first time since undergoing surgery on his right thumb in January. Instead, because of rain, he spent another day hitting in the cages. (Click here for video.) He should be able to hit outdoors on Wednesday.

Manager Terry Francona said that Bill Hall is a likely candidate to spell J.D. Drew against tough left-handers, but that Hall likely would have to play right field to do so, since the Sox have no designs on moving Mike Cameron from center to right in order to position Hall in a cozier area of the park.

–As for Cameron, Francona said that he will not play in exhibition games until Friday at the earliest.

–The man who served as a platoon partner for Drew last year, Rocco Baldelli, has accepted a position as a special assistant with the Tampa Bay Rays who will work with some of the organization’s younger players. Baldelli is not ready to retire, he told reporters, but he did admit that an unspecified shoulder injury would not allow him to play everyday at the present time.

–Former Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez has told the Dodgers that he plans to make a three-day trip to Taiwan with the club later this month for a series of exhibition games. Of course, it would appear that Los Angeles isn’t exactly betting the house on the likelihood that Ramirez will make the trip. So sayeth the Los Angeles Times:

“We fully expect he’ll make the trip,” Dodgers spokesman Josh Rawitch said. “We take him at his word.”

Still, some club officials are worried that Ramirez could once again change his mind.

“They announced it?” one club official asked.

Told yes, the official exploded laughing.

Read More: bill Hall, Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Youkilis
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