Friday afternoon with Bobby Valentine: The season won’t start on April 5 for everyone
|03.09.12 at 5:42 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — There are generally positive signs for the Red Sox with regards to the health of some of their players who have been dealing with injuries in spring training.
Carl Crawford resumed a throwing program after resting his surgically repaired wrist for a couple days. Andrew Bailey threw live batting practice and is now slated to appear in his first game of the spring on Monday, the same day in which Ross Ohlendorf is expected to make his first Grapefruit League appearance and one day after Aaron Cook will make his first appearance of the spring. Andrew Miller, who had some discomfort just above his left elbow, is now considered fine and will start throwing on Saturday.
Overall, by and large, the Sox are seeing positive signs in terms of their player health. But that doesn’t mean that they expect to have all of those players available for Opening Day. Indeed, in some cases, the team is trying to remove April 5 as a consideration for some of those players — perhaps most notably, Crawford — as they progress in their recoveries.
“I never try to have the calendar dictate the health of a player. I think Carl understands that this is like a tree, if you will, or your garden. In time, the fruit will be there,” said Valentine. “We can’t rush the process. You can’t allow what happened last time to happen again by letting the calendar dictate the healing process. It takes time.
“When we allow him that time, I think he’s going to be healed physically so that he can play without pain, without cause of concern. I don’t know when that is. I’m not planning on him. I think I said that coming in, too, and then I think I might have changed my mind when I saw him hitting and throwing earlier. I said, ‘Oh, what’s he doing?’ I have to go back to the original [timetable]. I’m making plans without him [for the start of the season] and eventually he’ll be here.”
As for the others, Valentine suggested Bailey should be able to throw seven innings this spring and be in position to start the season on time barring another setback after his lat injury; Cook, who has been in good health all spring and was being held back as a simple precaution given his injury history, could still be in the mix as a fifth starter for the first week of the season; and Ohlendorf is not in the mix for the start of the year.
On Bailey and the management of the bullpen: Valentine suggested that he is having a hard time wrapping his head around the structure of the Red Sox bullpen right now. There are many moving parts, between the health questions surrounding Bailey, the fact that five pitchers competing for rotation spots — Vicente Padilla, Felix Doubront, Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard — could end up in the Sox rotation or bullpen and that there are other spots to be addressed.
Against that backdrop of uncertainty, Valentine was asked whether he prefers to restrict the use of his closers to the ninth inning.
“In an ideal world, I guess I stay away from it. I don’t know how ideal this world is going to be,” said Valentine. “I do say, at the beginning of the season, I don’t think, with Bailey being the closer, I don’t want to say whether I do or I don’t. I don’t know the whole grouping out there yet.
“I think the most perplexing situation we have right now is that grouping. It’s compounded by the number of starters we have. It’s a very interesting situation, challenging situation, that is about ready to get sorted out in the first stages. You need to have that group before I say, ‘Hey, everything’s cool through the eighth inning.’ I have an idea, though. There’s four or five scenarios I’d be comfortable with, I think, if everyone’s healthy. But we don’t have four or five scenarios. We need to have one.”
Valentine added that he’s thought through the matter of whether Bailey’s health could impact the role of Aceves.
“Interesting question, interesting thought. I’ve had it. Possibly,” said Valentine. “But that’s dependent on other people, too. David Ortiz, Andrew Bailey, along with Josh [Beckett] and Clay [Buchholz] and Jon [Lester] are the only guys I look at on this whole team in a vacuum. They are this one thing. And even David has a situation where I think he’s going to play some first base, or potentially play some first base.”
Notably, this would appear the first time that Valentine has identified Bailey as his intended closer.
On naming the Opening Day starter: I am prepared to do it. I gave you the wrong answer. But I’m not going to. I want to be last. Can I be the last one to name the opening day starter? I can do that, right?”
On Lars Anderson: Once the top Red Sox prospect, Anderson has seen his prospect stop drop in the rankings of sundry organizations. Yet he remains an interesting player, albeit one who is blocked as an everyday first baseman for the Red Sox by Adrian Gonzalez, who is signed to be the Sox’ first baseman for the next seven years.
That being the case, it was interesting to hear Valentine suggest that Anderson, 24, will spend some time in left field this spring.
“He’s going to run around in left field a little,” said Valentine. “He can play first base. I think he could play defensively at first base. He needs to learn a little bit more about himself as a hitter, how he’s going to hit that ball high and far in this direction. He’s learning that.
“I agree totally with him when I talk with him and he says that he’s in a developing stage of his career, but he’s up toward the height of his development where he feels he’s ready to take some really important steps. That wouldn’t be in my mind at the big-league level. Those steps would be getting to the big-league level. He’s close, but he’s not there. I like what I see and I like what I hear. I like him.”
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