FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox had so many players coming off injuries last year that they spent their time in spring training trying to keep everybody healthy.
They succeeded in that, but were left with an unprepared team that started the season 2-10.
The tenor of camp is going to change this year under Bobby Valentine. And he's ready for the complaints.
"When I look at the program we devised, I don’t think of it as tough. But it seems it’s different because a lot of people are frowning. I just asked them to give [it] a few days," Valentine said this afternoon. "We all know that no one likes change except for those who are making other people change what that person wants them to.
"I happen to be one of those guys who likes change because guys are doing what I want them to do. I would bet there will be 100 guys who won’t really like it because it’s change for them. But they’ll get used to it."
With so many pitchers in camp competing for jobs, the Red Sox need as many innings as they can. Valentine said he hopes to make the games against Boston College and Northeastern on March 3 nine innings instead of seven. He also is looking to add two games to the schedule before March 15.
Those could be split-squad games or “B” games played on a practice field.
“The more we see [the pitchers] the easier it’s going to be for us to know what we have,” Valentine said. “It can be played anywhere. I’d like the other guys to have different uniforms and I’d like to be able to see it if possible.”
Teams do not play “B” games as often as they did in previous seasons.
“It’s because there’s a lot of lazy people in the game today,” Valentine said. “There can’t be enough. Everyone says [spring training] is too long. I think that’s baloney. To get guys really ready, I think everyone’s working the deadline to get a starter with 30 innings and five [starts]. The numbers just don’t compute.”
Valentine spent all morning on the field, watching the players and talking to his coaches. He is thrilled with the new facility and clearly is enjoying being back in charge of a team after spending two years with ESPN.
"I like this," he said. "I really do. It's invigorating and inspiring."
Valentine also touched on some other subjects . . .
On Carl Crawford: "I wouldn’t be surprised if Carl’s a few weeks into the season before he’s really ready. I wouldn’t be surprised nor disappointed if that’s what nature dictates as his healing process.
"When he’s ready and he’s healed, he is going to be a welcome addition to our team, whenever that is. The more I’ve looked at Carl on film and tried to evaluate the whole thing, he’s really special and we really need him. If it’s later, then that’s when it will be."
On the status of Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek: "I would say the clock is really close to the witching hour. Every day we're making out daily programs and it's hard to do unless we know the numbers, the faces, and the names."
Late arrivals: No players have informed Valentine that they will be late to camp. That includes righthander Vicente Padilla, who has been dealing with some legal issues in his native Nicaragua.
“The only time I didn’t have someone late because of a visa was in Japan,” Valentine said. “Someone’s usually late and it’s a big deal until a day after he shows up and he’s not late anymore.”