|And so it begins: Bobby Valentine on the state of the Red Sox as spring training opens||02.19.12 at 2:58 pm ET|
FORT MYERS — It is an unusual spring for the Red Sox. As they return from a 2011 season that witnessed immense promise before ending in a startling collapse that yielded tremendous on- and off-field questions as well as turnover in both the front office and manager’s office, the Red Sox are a team that starts spring training with greater-than-usual uncertainty. The shape of the roster is less settled than is typically the case, and the mindset and dynamic of the organization will also be a work in progress over the coming six weeks in Fort Myers.
New Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, the successor to Terry Francona‘s eight-year run at the helm of the Boston dugout, did not hide from that fact. He embraced the questions surrounding his club.
“At the start of season, you have all questions,” said Valentine. “You have questions about how the team will come together. How the pitching staff will work with the catchers. How the lineup will look and work together. I’d say we have all questions and questions of good health, too.
“As far as positions, we have a vacancy at shortstop, we have a vacancy in right field. Right now, [Carl Crawford]’s health is of question for maybe Opening Day anyway – for opening day of Spring Training. We’ll deal with left field. You know a couple of spots in our starting rotation and our bullpen has open spots also. If you mean just the personnel, those are the questions that need answers. The general idea of all the things coming together need to be answered.”
Here are some of the questions that Valentine addressed on Sunday morning:
On what he think the team needs to do in the wake of its historic collapse in 2011:
I definitely believe actions speak louder than words, and the actions I’ve watched in the last five or six days are speaking volumes. I think our fans will want to see more than they want to hear, but I think they need to hear something also. I don’t know if I’ll address it. I hear that the first day state of the union is a multitask, that there’s a lot of talk going on that day. I’m not sure if I’m last up that I’m going to have to say anything. The last thing I want to do is be redundant, but I want to be emphatic. And I think everyone wants to be emphatic, and if it needs to be said again, I will. …
As far as a fresh start is concerned, absolutely. For everyone in this camp. This is 2012. This is the year that could be the most special year of their life. That is definitely a message I want them to understand, regardless of what happened last year, whether they were in Korea or Boston or the National League West. I want them to think this is a special year.
Would you be surprised if Jason Varitek showed up today?
I could be surprised if he did. I don’t have any expectation, because I haven’t heard that we should get his uniform yet.
On the shortstop position and why the team traded Marco Scutaro:
We talked about that before it was done. I was all on board with it, totally. Believe it or not, when I make out the lineup against Boston University and Boston College a couple of days from now, I’ll have a shortstop. And to some surprises out there, when we open up in Detroit, there will also be a shortstop. (Valentine was subsequently informed that it will be Northeastern and BC who oppose the Red Sox; BU does not have a baseball team.)
Where do you see shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias being?
Right between second and third, right? He’s a very intriguing player. I’m very anxious to see him, work with him and figure out who and what he is. Looking forward to it.
On the condition of Clay Buchholz:
His health and the training room reports are excellent. He has a great look in his eye. And it’s been five days.
On whether he hopes for a fixed lineup:
I forget the exact number – but I think in the National League there were over 114 average, 114 lineups used. The American League I think was 101 average lineups used. I haven’t gotten that many written down yet. I think we’ll use 100 lineups this year.
Any pitchers competing for spots in the rotation who have made strong early impressions?
Daniel Bard, I can tell you right off, the get-go, Daniel Bard is drawing a lot of attention. Love what we see and love what we’re thinking about. Andrew Miller can fall into a very similar situation. … I don’t want to just pick them out of the crowd, even though I just did. There are probably, I would say, eight guys who are going to be vying for those starting jobs, and we’ve seen five of them and they all look good. [Felix] Doubront looks terrific so far. (Valentine later added that Junichi Tazawa‘s role remains “TBD.”)
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