FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The last time Bobby Valentine managed a MLB game -- in 2002 with the New York Mets -- Joe Maddon was a bench coach on the World Series champion Angels. Their paths never crossed, as Maddon took over the Tampa Bay Rays and Valentine managed in Japan and then worked as an ESPN analyst.
Valentine said before Saturday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays -- his first-ever managerial faceoff against Maddon -- that he’s met Maddon only a few times, but has admired him from afar.
“I like what he does and how he does it,” Valentine said. “I think a lot of managers I like are guys who are unpredictable guys who manage what they believe -- meaning with character, not for reputation. They don’t care what everybody else is thinking about them. They’re doing what they think is right. And I think he does that.
“I think his gamesmanship is real good, his in-game housekeeping is good. And I like a little bit of his banter, whatever his act is. I kind of like it.”
When it was suggested that he could be talking about himself, Valentine let out a spirited laugh.
“You think I like my act?” he said. “I’ve been trying to change this for 60 years, and I can’t do it.
“The idea of being unpredictable ... I hope I’m unpredictable. Most of the guys I’ve managed against that I thought were pretty good managers were predictably unpredictable. You could be sure that you’re not sure. Whether it’s the first inning or the ninth inning, I think that’s important. A general in combat cannot always go around the right flank. It just doesn’t work all the time.”
The Red Sox, under GM Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona, were not exactly unpredictable. They relied heavily on metrics and charts to make their decisions.
Asked if there was a philosophical clash between being unpredictable and relying on what charts say, Valentine said: “I don’t know. I haven’t experienced all that yet. I’ve experienced numbers and how to use them, but I haven’t experienced this environment. And you know what? Since I’ve been here, it’s been a non-factor.”
Maddon ran into Valentine before the game and said he enjoyed their conversation.
"I do know where he comes from,” Maddon said, “and conversationally, I know that he’s not going to be afraid to try anything. He’s going to be on top of everything. I do know he’s going to be prepared. I’m really looking forward to it."
Other highlights from Valentine’s media briefing Saturday:
* He said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is “still the leader of the pack,” but he values Kelly Shoppach’s AL East experience and ability so far to fit in with the group of pitchers and catchers.
He said the starter for each game will have more to do with who’s pitching for the Red Sox than who’s pitching for the opposing team.
“That’s why you’ve seen our whole depth chart try to get in with some of our mainstay pitchers,” he said, “because you don’t know what can happen during the season. I don’t want to call someone up on May 11 who’s never caught Josh [Beckett], or something. Tuck [bullpen coach Gary Tuck] is doing a really good job of keeping track of innings per pitcher, per catcher, and we’re going to keep rotating that as much as possible. Now we know what that does offensively. But that’s what you have to do.
“It’s challenging. Just like we’re mapping out pitchers five days, we’re mapping out catchers.”
* Pitcher Aaron Cook, who has been held out of action because of past injury issues, will pitch Sunday, and Valentine said he’s “really looking for the sinker.”
“It’s his make-or-break pitch,” he said. “We’re going to see how it’s sinking.”
* Closer Andrew Bailey threw long toss Saturday and may throw off the mound Sunday in advance of his first appearance on Monday.
“Andrew feels great,” Valentine said. “He missed a beat, but he didn’t miss a full step.”
* Valentine remained noncommittal about Jacoby Ellsbury’s spot in the batting order: “He’s in it. He’s really good in it, I’ll guarantee you that. He’s got a spot.”
* He said pitcher Franklin Morales, who returned to Boston earlier in the week to have his heart examined, is “pain-free” and back to a throwing program, but there is no timetable for his return.
“If we put that date out there and he has a setback, everybody’s going to think he’s broken,” he said. “It’s not unreasonable to think he’s going to be charging hard when the season begins.”
* He said the pitchers seem to be grasping what the staff has been trying to teach them about holding runners on base.
“There have been some exceptions to the rule, but they get it,” he said. “Everyone understands there is a situation that needs to be addressed, and we’re addressing it.
“Our main objective when we’re on the mound with the ball in our hand and the hitter up is we don’t want to divide the concentration at all. But we want to have everyone with a program that is a major-league-usable program that can keep people honest.”