LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It was a long day for Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein.
After he and the organization officially introduced Adrian Gonzalez as the team's new first baseman during a press conference at Fenway Park, Epstein arrived at the winter meetings Monday night to focus on the rest of the team’s roster.
“Getting down here late today was better than it would have been if we were getting down here late today without Adrian Gonzalez,” he said.
"It was definitely worthwhile to stick around for the press conference," he added. "I think it was an important moment for Adrian and his wife, and for the Red Sox. It was worth being there.”
While Epstein was in Boston, assistant GM Ben Cherington and the rest of the staff was at the Dolphin Hotel getting everything else done.
Epstein met with the local Sox beat writers in his hotel room and discussed what the club will focus on now that Gonzalez is in the mix. He said he’s focused on improving the bullpen and maybe even integrating a right-handed bat if the Sox can find the right player in the right spot. The GM also said he’s happy with the way the club’s outfield stands currently, in case he doesn’t add another outfielder.
“There’s been a lot of talk about our outfield and we’ve talked about it internally,” he said. “I feel like if we brought back the same group, we’d be OK. There’s some benefit to bringing the right player into the mix for a couple of different reasons. It might allow us some time for some of our outfielders' development paths to take hold, provide more depth for guys who are coming off injury, and might provide a better mix against right- or left-handed pitching.
“I think there is the possibility of us doing something in the outfield. It might be a more complementary type move. And if we don’t find something that makes sense, then we are comfortable going with the group that we have. We actually have some nice depth as it is. I think the right piece might work as well.”
While Epstein admitted he’s looking at a lot of different bullpen options at this point, he said he's also had conversations with Hideki Okajima.
“We’ve been talking to his guy. He’s a free agent now,” Epstein said. “We’d have interest in bringing him back under the right circumstances.”
Even though it's all but a done deal, Epstein wouldn't say he's officially re-signed veteran catcher Jason Varitek, but added he is very comfortable with the captain and Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate in 2011.
"We’re definitely comfortable with it. If we were to sign Jason Varitek, we’d be comfortable with that combination. It would be a nice mix," Epstein said. "You have two switch hitters. You have a young catcher eager to learn, who’s always looked up to Jason Varitek. You’ve got a more veteran catcher who knows his role, who took a liking to the younger catcher and is eager to pass on his knowledge and wisdom, especially when it comes to handling a pitcher."
Here are a couple of other subjects Epstein talked about:
YOUKILIS IS READY TO GO: Now that Kevin Youkilis is officially a third baseman again, Epstein said Youkilis will be ready for spring training and that his surgically-repaired thumb is doing fine.
"Youk's rehab is going really well," Epstein said. "I asked him that the other day, and he was like, ‘What rehab?’ Basically, he got back to the point where he was swinging the bat really well and comfortable and considers himself back. He’s just working hard and getting ready for the season.”
THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY: Epstein also wanted to make it a point to talk about the three prospects he surrendered to the Padres in order to acquire Gonzalez.
“Casey Kelly is a top-of-the-rotation starter in the making," Epstein said. "He’s a guy I got to know really well during the signing process, and then through his transition from being a position player to pitching," Epstein said. "I think the world of him and I wish him nothing but the best going forward.”
“Anthony Rizzo, he thanked us for being at his side while he fought for his life [against cancer], and we thanked him for setting an example for everyone in the whole organization how to conduct himself and overcoming adversities. He’s an unbelievable guy, and I think he’ll be an everyday first baseman in the middle of the lineup for a long time.”
“Ray Fuentes has a bright future, as well. I got to know him a little during the signing process, but not as well as Casey and Anthony. That was really tough. Even though we couldn’t be happier with the guy we got, and the circumstances in which we got him and the long-term future he can have in the Red Sox organization, losing those three guys is nonetheless a gut punch. It’s emotional, but that’s part of doing business to field a very competitive team year in and year out."