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Red Sox notes: John Farrell prepares for life as a ‘villain or bad guy’

04.04.13 at 7:24 pm ET
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NEW YORK — It is rare that the Bronx represents the calm before the storm for a member of the Red Sox. But that is precisely the circumstance in which Red Sox manager John Farrell now finds himself, given that the season-opening series against the Yankees is a prelude to his return to Toronto for the first time since the Blue Jays agreed to trade him to their divisional rivals.

The Blue Jays, of course, consented to deal Farrell. They acquired shortstop Mike Aviles in exchange for him. Even so, the fact that Farrell characterized the situation in Boston as a “dream job” struck a number of nerves among Blue Jays followers and players, particularly given that the Blue Jays struggled to a 73-89 record under Farrell in 2012.

The manager has faced hostile lines of inquiry from Toronto media for some time, whether at the MLB winter meetings in December or during spring training contests between the Sox and Blue Jays in Dunedin. A similar fate likely awaits him prior to Friday’s game. That being the case, Farrell was asked, how does he feel about the possibility of heading to Toronto?

‘€œDefinitely looking forward to it. They’€™ve got a good team. We’€™re looking to compete against them,” said Farrell. “I’€™m sure the excitement that’€™s around the Blue Jays because of the changes they’€™ve gone through in the offseason, this will be a very good challenge for us. We’€™ve got to take care of tonight [against the Yankees] first.’€

Asked if he’d ever found himself playing the role of a public villain before, it wasn’t entirely clear whether Farrell was more amused or bemused.

“Villain or the bad guy, whatever it might be, I can only say we’€™re looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead of us,” he said. “People are going to have their own opinions, and I respect that. It goes along with the heightened interest in the Blue Jays and a lot of the changes they’€™ve made. There’€™s a lot of excitement there. In this case, with how things unfolded, the unique set of circumstances that surround both the change in Toronto and here in Boston, I can fully appreciate that they might have those feelings. What might come out of it, we’€™ll see starting tomorrow. But we’€™re looking forward to going up there and competing against them.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

– Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew starts a minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Portland on Thursday. He suggested that his timing at the plate while playing in extended spring training games in Fort Myers had seemed decent given the nearly four weeks he went without playing in games after suffering a concussion on March 7.

“It was fine, realistically. I don’€™t want to say it was totally off. It was a little off — but better than expected,” Drew told reporters in Portland. “You can get guys and have 70 at-bats, and sometimes your timing is going to a little off and this and that. It’€™s a matter of getting your at-bats and picking up balls and getting your pitch you want to get.

“I’€™ve been out of the game for three and a half weeks now, so I’€™ll try to see as many pitches as I can, get as many at-bats as I can,” he suggested regarding what he hopes to accomplish in Portland. “I don’€™t want to say it’€™s spring training, but I’€™ve got to get my legs under me a little bit and progress with innings and, hopefully, head back up there.”

– The Red Sox have aggressively employed shifts in the opening series of the season, but the team has featured discernibly different alignments depending on the identity of the opposing hitter. Specifically, the positioning of both Dustin Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks against left-handed hitters has been markedly different depending on the hitter and whether or not there’s been a runner on first base.

“We’€™ll put Pedey in the area in which the higher number of balls are hit in that certain area,” said Farrell. “For example, here in New York, we’€™ll see a different alignment vs. [Travis] Hafner as we will [Robinson] Cano, just by virtue of the information we have at our disposal. That’€™s what goes into it. And the other thing is, when we’€™ve got a man on first base, we’€™ll keep Will away from second base. He’€™s not accustomed to turning the double play and we’€™ll always keep Pedey as the pivot guy.’€

Franklin Morales threw a 25-pitch live batting practice session following a 25-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday, while Craig Breslow threw a bullpen session in Fort Myers. Both left-handers will pitch in games in extended spring training before they commence minor league rehab assignments.

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