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Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Quick hits from Bobby V

By Rick Weber



FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine thought about it at 4 a.m. when he woke up. He thought about it all day as the pitchers and catchers worked on drills.

He’s been excited ever since he was named manager and left his ESPN career in the rear-view mirror. But Tuesday was something special because it was the first official day of workouts.

“I was really invested in this first day because it’s been a couple of months in planning,” he said, “and so basically I was back for the first day. I think that was the big excitement. It gets bigger than that, obviously, because it’s going to be a very challenging job.

“I hope it invigorates me. I think I’m invigorated. I feel like I am, even though at 9:30 I’m tired.”

Valentine seemed plenty invigorated in a spirited 27-minute, 18-second meeting with the media. Some highlights:

* On pitching and defense: “I’d like for our pitching and defense to improve. I’d like to have our pitching defense improve. We struck out a lot of guys and threw a lot of fly balls, so some of the statistics on our team aren’t fair. You might see we were last in a lot of categories. That’s because we were last in a lot of categories. We weren’t really good at a lot of stuff, other than pitching the ball. Hopefully we can improve on that. We might win a game or two.”

* On the plan for outfielder Carl Crawford's rehab: “Carl is going to jump out of the box. It looks like he’s feeling great. I told you yesterday we were going to evaluate him first-hand and get that schedule. I don’t know what it is. He’s not going to swing, as far as I know, this week. He’s working on some things, one-handed swing drills. He’s throwing. He’s going to work on his base-running. When the swing comes, I think he’ll be able to jump-start it because he’s doing a lot of things now.”

* On whether Crawford will be ready for Opening Day: “I hate to have the calendar dictate the health of a player. I mean, it seems realistic, I guess, if he’s close to hitting.”

* On reports that he has significant changes in store for the team rules: “I don’t know if there are specific things. I’ll just adjust to situations as they move along. I don’t know that there are any more changes down here. I talked about people riding the bus. I hear that they did it anyway. It will be mandatory -- with exceptions, of course. Mandatory -- that’s the way we’re going to do it, of course. If somebody needs to drive for a particular situation, of course we’ll let reason rule.”

* On whether today’s pitchers are “babied” with pitch counts and closely monitored innings: “We understand that one of the great commodities we have in the game of baseball is the arms of pitchers, and we do everything we can to protect them.

"I introduced Luis Tiant to the group and mentioned a game I played in 1974. Nolan Ryan struck out 19 guys and walked 10 and gave up eight hits and threw 235 pitches and came out after 13 innings. Luis went back out for the 14th and threw 196 pitches. The amazing thing about that is what they did in the next 10 games. Nolan went, like, 7-1 with six or seven no-hitters, and even pitched in relief in between two of the starts. Luis pitched 10 innings in his next start.

"Is it different (today)? Yes. Are they babied? I don’t know. I think they’re protected. And I think it’s right to protect them, because it’s a great commodity.”

* On the health of right-hander Stolmy Pimentel: “He has a lat situation that’s from yesterday. We’re going to keep him out of action for a while.”

* On whether the players viewed today’s drills as punishment for not doing them correctly or a way to learn to do them right: “I hate to paint every player with one brush and say, ‘This is what players think.’ I don’t know what our players think. That’s why I want to get to know my team. If they think of it as punishment, why do it? It’s not about punishment. It’s about reward.”

Rick Weber is helping to cover Red Sox spring training for ESPNBoston.com.