Sunday, February 26, 2012
Valentine impressed by Beckett's work
By Joe McDonald
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was a somewhat quiet and a more normal routine on Sunday around JetBlue Park at Fenway South.
Pitchers threw live batting practice sessions again and position players worked mainly on their defensive skills. After the second day of full-squad workouts was over, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine explained that there were a few things that impressed him during the morning session, especially pitcher Josh Beckett.
Valentine was not asked about Beckett, but the manager made it a point to express his pleasure in the right-hander’s live BP session on Sunday.
“He was very good today,” Valentine said. “He really wants to have that changeup down pat. He feels like that’s an important part of his arsenal when he goes north and today was a good step in that direction.”
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia was one of the position players to step in against Beckett and he later told Valentine that he thought Beckett was throwing between 93 and 96 m.p.h.
Bailey dinged up: Red Sox reliever Andrew Bailey tweaked a lat muscle during his physical while participating in the vertical-jump test. Valentine said he’s fine and he’s scheduled to throw a live BP session on Monday. “It’s nothing that he wouldn’t pitch with during the season, but we’ve given him a couple of extra days and he seems to be ready,” Valentine said.
Lester picks it up: Red Sox lefty Jon Lester spent more than 20 minutes working on his pickoff move to first base. When Valentine was an analyst for ESPN, he was critical of Lester’s move, and it’s clear that is a point of emphasis for both this spring. While Lester was working on his move Sunday, Valentine was keeping a close eye on the pitcher’s workout.
“His actual technique was being worked on today,” Valentine said. “That would be his ability to disguise to the runner when he’s coming to first and when he’s going home. Today was mainly his bottom half, his leg movement and kind of closing the gap a little when he throws to first, and he was pretty good at it.
“He also has a thing about throwing to first with his confidence and firing it over there,” Valentine added. “Repetitions will hopefully cure some of those ills and get rid of some of those demons.”
The Red Sox pitching staff was the worst in the AL East last season at controlling the running game.
Let’s talk lineup: Valentine already has talked with Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury about their possible spots in the batting order and the manager said both were “free and open” about discussing it, while Carl Crawford is “ready to have a conversation.”
Nothing is set in stone and Valentine said earlier in camp that he’ll probably have “100 different lineups” this season. During his discussion with the media on Sunday, Valentine was asked if he would consider moving Ellsbury, who primarily has been a leadoff hitter, to the No. 3 spot in the order.
“Sure, I think he could be,” Valentine said of Ellsbury potentially being a No. 3 hitter. “When I’ve talked to him about it, he thinks he could be, he just never has been, which makes it a little bit of a mental challenge.”
Impressive: A few young pitchers in camp have impressed Valentine, including Felix Doubront and Junichi Tazawa. The Japanese right-hander tossed a session on Sunday with the manager looking on.
“Tazawa’s breaking ball today wasn’t quite as crisp as it has been, but he was able to command that fastball again," Valentine said. "He threw a few of his changeup pitch, which is a hybrid between a changeup and a split. His arm is a little tired, but he’s all right.”
Valentine added that he expects most pitchers to feel a bit tired.
“I would be concerned if everybody’s arm didn’t feel a little different than it did two weeks ago,” Valentine said. “There’s been a lot of throwing here.”