Just getting warmed up
Sure signs of spring down at Sox camp
FORT MYERS, Fla. - It’s impossible to beat WBZ’s Jon Miller to spring training, but coming in second to the Boston media legend gives you some chest-thumping pride. You see, we’ve all been a little eager to get to The Fort this year, not only to get accustomed to the logistics of new JetBlue Park, but because there are obvious story lines stemming from last year’s great September collapse that we want to dive into.
Those story lines include Bobby Valentine’s debut as Red Sox manager as well as new general manager Ben Cherington’s first spring training. There is Daniel Bard’s transition to starting pitcher. There is, “Who’s on short?’’ And the rehash of last September.
There are more immediate issues, such as the interest in free agent Roy Oswalt, the arbitration case scheduled for Monday with David Ortiz, and tough decisions on Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield, which Cherington said could come next week.
And, of course, the much-awaited compensation from the Cubs for Theo Epstein should be settled before spring training officially starts.
Regarding Oswalt, a major league source indicates that the 34-year-old righthander’s priority is geographic, not financial, meaning the Red Sox are offering what Oswalt would accept, but he prefers a place like St. Louis or Texas over Boston.
We’ll see if Oswalt gets his wish regarding location and money. But Boston is still in the hunt.
Ortiz continues to tell reporters in the Dominican Republic that he wants a multiyear deal, but according to Cherington, the Sox are preparing for the hearing, which will decide whether Ortiz’s $16.5 million number beats Boston’s $12.65 million offer.
The Epstein compensation issue is being decided by commissioner Bud Selig, who has received information from both teams concerning their stand on the topic. The Red Sox still believe the agreement was to yield to them a “significant’’ player or prospect.
Meanwhile, there were about 50 minor leaguers and major leaguers working out at the complex yesterday on a voluntary basis. The most recognizable were Jon Lester, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Lavarnway, Andrew Miller, and Ryan Kalish. Also present were front office types such as Cherington, president Larry Lucchino, and executive vice president Jonathan Gilula, who were overseeing last-minute touches for the unveiling of the $80 million ballpark on Feb. 19, when pitchers and catchers officially report.
Amid the workouts were fantasy leaguers who paid upward of $4,500 to play baseball with the likes of Trot Nixon, Rich Gedman, Frank Viola, Jim Corsi, Brian Daubach, Butch Hobson, Dick Drago, Bob Stanley, Al Bumbry, Gary Allenson, and others. All six minor league fields were active with fantasy league games and/or workouts.
At one field, batting coach Victor Rodriguez was overseeing some of the strong young hitters, including Tiverton, R.I.’s, Zach Kapstein, who looks like the most ripped player in the organization. Kalish can’t swing or throw for a month as he recovers from neck/shoulder surgeries, but he’s in excellent shape. Lester looks lean. Lavarnway looks stronger after his work at Athletes Performance in Arizona.
The new facility achieves what the team set out to do: bring the entire organization under one roof with plenty of state-of-the-art weight rooms and batting cages. The only place where there appears to be some problem is in the minor league clubhouse, which is smaller than expected.
The major league clubhouse, still being finished off, is massive, and complete with a dining hall. Another thing that appears a little short is parking. One of the big “let’s sees’’ about the place is how it will handle the traffic.
The fantasy leaguers seemed to be having fun, but there were plenty of strained hamstrings and groins inhibiting the mobility of some campers.
It’s always interesting to catch up with some of the old Red Sox. Hobson will manage Lancaster, Pa., in the independent Atlantic League this season. Gedman is now a Red Sox minor league hitting instructor. Stanley is the Triple A (Las Vegas) pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Daubach is returning to Single A Hagerstown in the Washington system, where last season he managed phenom Bryce Harper. Nixon is enjoying life with his family in North Carolina.
Corsi is in the granite business. Bumbry makes a lot of community service appearances for the Orioles. Allenson is a manager in the Baltimore organization. And it’s always great to see Dick Berardino, Frank Malzone, Jeremy Kapstein, Ken Nigro, and other Sox officials around the ballpark.
“This is pretty impressive,’’ said Daubach about the facility. “This is going to make things better for the players. Everything they need is right here.’’
Of course, you can’t think of everything, which is why Lucchino, Cherington, and Gilula were going over the facility with a fine-tooth comb, asking everybody for constructive criticism.
Spring training is getting close. The Super Bowl, so crushing for New England sports fans, is over.
Time for baseball.