|Bobby Valentine has every intention of improving the outfield arms||02.28.12 at 3:47 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox held their first formal workout inside the brand new jetBlue Park Tuesday morning as manager Bobby Valentine threw and batted balls off the left and right field walls to simulate cutoff plays and throwing in the park that has the identical outfield dimensions as the club’s Fenway Park home.
Valentine said he is making a point this year of improving outfield defense and throwing strength, trying to improve the throwing arms of all of his outfielders.
“Part of the program today was cutoffs and positioning with our relays,” Valentine said. “This is our ballpark and we’re going to play at least 81 games in it and it’s great to have it and practice in. So, because there are a couple of nooks and crannies that are particular to ours, I think, obviously, our cutoffs and relays are a little different at times so, it’s good.”
Eight-time Gold Glover Dwight Evans paid a visit to Red Sox camp on Tuesday.
“I’d love to talk to Dwight about that,” Valentine said. “He’s one of the good men. And, I hear [Carl Yastrzemski] comes to camp, too. I hope I can get him over. There hasn’t been an invite out only because I didn’t know he’d be down here.”
While Valentine was poking fun at Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez for fighting the now-retired Jason Varitek, Valentine took a shot at another Yankee, Derek Jeter, and his famous cutoff play near the plate that resulted in a crucial put out of Jeremy Giambi in Game 4 of the 2001 ALDS.
“We’ll never practice that. We’ll never practice that. I think the ball gets him out if he doesn’t touch it, personally. But the Jeter-like simulation today is the idea what the first baseman and third baseman do as the ball is coming in.”
Outfield prospect Che-Hsuan Lin has already impressed with his arm in the outfield in workouts.
“I know we have one outstanding thrower according to [outfield instructor/first base coach]Alex Ochoa, and it’s not Alex and he was an outstanding thrower. Lin is in a different place. From reports, a couple of the arms are a little lower on the rating scale, and we’re going to try to adjust for that.”
“Ninety-six percent of the runners who tried to score from second base last year in baseball, scored,” Valentine said. “That’s not a whole lot of people getting thrown out at home plate.
“You don’t use it, you lose it. A lot of them didn’t use it, they lost it.”
Valentine also joked that he doesn’t want to hear any criticism about his policy of having position players hit fungos to his infielders during infield practice, a drill he’s used since he managed in Japan and carried over to the Mets in spring training.
“Maybe since Japan in the mid-90s,” Valentine said. “I did it in New York. It’s a way of keeping those guys active and it’s also giving some simulation real-life spin on a grounder.”
On Tuesday, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz took turns feeding each other. Adrian Gonzalez and Nate Spears were paired up, as were Dustin Pedroia and Mike Aviles.
“And, just for the record, if we get off to a slow start, and someone says it’s because guys were hitting fungos, which they’re not, they’re hitting grounders, and they got into bad habits, I’m calling bull [expletive] right now,” Valentine joked.
As a matter of fact, Ortiz took the last toss and drove it 370 feet to right field, landing just shy of the warning track, impressive considering Ortiz was generating all of his own power to hit it that far.
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