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Bobby Valentine: ‘I can’t wait to meet’ Carl Crawford

12.22.11 at 12:04 am ET

New Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine checked in with the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday afternoon. Calling from the Red Sox’ new spring training stadium in Fort Myers, Fla., Valentine gushed about the “spectacularly designed and built” JetBlue Park at Fenway South that is still undergoing preparations for its debut in 2012.

One of the Sox players who will play in that park is Carl Crawford. Valentine said he has spoken with Crawford’s agent but has yet to talk directly to the player he criticized during the season while serving as an ESPN analyst.

“Carl’s working his behind off, as he usually does, I guess, in the offseason,” Valentine said. “From what I gather and what I’ve seen from afar and what I’ve learned third-hand, and not first-hand, is that he’s an athlete who loves to work. Speaking to his agent, he is working. We have a face-to-face plan hopefully right after the first of the year, when things settle down for him. He’s going to give me a little time. So, it’s in the planning stages. But you know what? We’re going to have a lot of time when the season starts, too. I can’t wait to meet this outstanding athlete.”

Valentine said in a recent interview that Crawford went from being a five-tool player to using only two of those tools this year. Asked how he planned to get Crawford back to being a complete player, Valentine said: “I wish there was one answer to that, but obviously it’s going to have to come from within, from Carl wanting and feeling and knowing that he’s ready to it. ‘€¦ I think that the support staff, the coaching staff, as well as a lot of the players who, when I have talked to some of the guys, said we really have to make sure that Carl has a better feel this year. We have to make sure that Carl feels at home this year. We have to make sure that Carl can be Carl this year. That’s right on the front burner, as far as I’m concerned.”

As he spoke, Valentine was preparing to leave Fort Myers and drive across the state to visit a couple of Sox players. He explained that he stresses personal interaction over his phone conversations with his new charges.

“Talking on the phone is only one step up from communicating by a letter or Twitter or the Internet,” he said. “There’s nothing like — you know what I mean by this, Lou — talking with your body and your heart and your eyes and your hands, as we Italians do. I think most of the communication has been a cordial one, one that says I’m really looking forward to really establishing a line of communication and really working and really enjoying and and trying to find what I could do to make these guys as good as they can possibly be.

“Some guys talk more than others, some guys got into philosophies of what they think we should do in spring training and how we should do batting orders and who should be the first pitcher out of the bullpen. So, there have been conversations. I don’t want you to think that I am immature enough to believe that any of these telephone or even in-person cordial conversations have done anything other than just begun what has to be a long and very hard road to get to know each other.”

Valentine acknowledged that Tim Bogar will be the team’s new bench coach, and he said a pitching coach has been selected but won’t be announced until an agreement is reached.

“I think that it’s paramount that this group of outstanding pitchers has as good a guy directing them and working with them on a daily basis as possible,” he said. “I’ve basically exhausted all friendships, relationships, lists that I’ve seen of many, many ex-pitchers and pitching coaches that are out there. I think that Ben [Cherington] and Mike [Hazen] and Brian [O’Halloran] and Allard [Baird] and I have gone through the names, have gone through the interviews, and I think that we’ve come to one mind on who that guy’s going to be. And it should be announced as soon as Ben gets the contract signed.”

Following are more highlights from the interview.

On new bench coach Tim Bogar: “The last time Tim thought about talking to me, he was in the same mindset that I think Josh Beckett was when he heard me talk on ‘Baseball Tonight,” because I guess when I was managing Tim in New York, he was traded to the Astros — or he might have been released and then signed by the Astros, but it wasn’t a pleasant situation. Since then, we’ve had a relationship where I’ve seen him the dugout, I’ve seen him on the field. I’ve always admired his passion for the game of baseball and his knowledge of the game of baseball. After talking to him and figuring out what I could do to make him the best that he could be, so that he could be the best coach on this staff, the bench coach was exactly where he needed to be.”

On his phone conversation with Josh Beckett: “He sounded fabulous for about 40 minutes of that conversation. He expressed his displeasure of some things that he heard me say on the ‘Baseball Tonight’ show or maybe on a ‘Sunday Night Baseball’ show. And he expressed them to me, and that was cool. I think he got it out of the way. He understands that we all have jobs to do. That was my job. I was going to say what I felt needed to be said.”

On Daisuke Matsuzaka: “When I saw Daisuke, I spoke Japanese and he spoke English. How about that for a conversation? Everything was communicated that had to be communicated at the time. To be very truthful with you, watching Daisuke from a afar, I felt that he tried to use his fastball too much. I felt that he limited his selection of pitches from what I had seen from him a few years ago, that he became a fastball/slider pitcher, basically, when I saw him on TV, which was nothing like the pitcher I saw when he was being one of the best pitchers in Japan. I’m going to try to get him to pitch the way he understands he can be successful, and not the way the guys on the TV or the radio, guys in the clubhouse, or even maybe some guys on the coaching staff might envision him to be. I want him to just be as good as he can be. And I think that’s not being a fastball pitcher. I think that’s using the fastball so that the rest of his pitches are getting set up.”

On the Red Sox bullpen: “Obviously, the manager’s hope is secondary to the group that he has. ‘€¦ There’s plenty of ways for me to understand that situation, and plenty of ways to bring home the bacon. I’m going to adjust to the group that I have to make the bullpen along with the team as good as they can possibly be.”

On new acquisition Nick Punto: “Talking to Nick and watching him from afar, he’s seen a lot come and go. He understands the difference between right and wrong. He’s a pretty hard-nosed little player when he’s in the lineup. So, I think that there’s a place for him on our team. I don’t look for him to fill a major role as far as playing time is concerned, but I feel when he’s in uniform and when he’s on the field, he’s going to bring a little extra to the party, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

On not getting too excited about the prospects of being named Red Sox manager in the days leading up to his hiring: “I never allowed myself to really get out in front of it, because I didn’t want to have a major disappointment. Of course, it was always creeping into my mind that there was a chance and that there was a fit and that maybe it would be my name that was pulled out of the hat. But until I got the phone call, I really never allowed myself to be here in Fort Myers or even be there at Fenway as I was for the last many days of the last three weeks. It’s been exciting and challenging and everything that I could have imagined if I allowed myself to do it.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

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