Catching up on a few tidbits from Saturday’s Christmas at Fenway event, where manager Bobby Valentine and pitcher Jon Lester talked to reporters and fans:
* In a Q&A session at the event, Valentine said Daniel Bard would be prepped to be a starting pitcher during spring training and a determination would be made sometime in March whether he’ll begin the season as a starter or as the team’s closer.
"I told him to prepare to be a starter and if that, in fact, does not happen to be ready and willing to be our closer,'' Valentine said.
With Jonathan Papelbon gone and Ben Cherington having already said Alfredo Aceves would compete for a spot in the starting rotation, that leaves the Red Sox potentially without their three best relievers from last season. Rebuilding the pen has to be one of the team’s biggest priorities between now and January.
* Valentine also elaborated on the phone conversation he had with Josh Beckett, who said he was angered by the then-ESPN broadcaster’s comments about the pitcher taking too much time between pitches.
"He told me not to talk about the conversation so I'm not going to talk about the conversation,” Valentine said. "But I'll talk about the length of the conversation. It was 20 minutes maybe a little more. But the first two sentences were, 'Oh, by the way, I was really pissed off at what you said,' and I said, `Let's get that out of the way,' and I said, 'OK, that's out of the way,' and we talked about everything else. That was kind of the extent for his dislike of what I said.
"I'll say this, because it's apropos and he won't mind, he felt at the time, and probably correctly so, he was dominating the Yankees. I mean he was totally dominating them when he pitched and one of the things that was mentioned from across the field [at Yankees Stadium] was mentioned by Kevin Long, according to him. I didn't remember this as an ESPN announcer, but Kevin Long started complaining about him taking too long. And he felt, well, why don't I take long and if they don't like it, then that's exactly what I want to do. Whatever they don't like, and what makes them uncomfortable, makes them unsuccessful. And we at ESPN fell into the Kevin Long strategy of trying to reverse his success."
* Lester said that while he was “sad to see Tito go” he was “excited for the new era” with Valentine and Cherington at the helm.