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Red Sox notebook

Bosses own strong opinions

Henry and Co. talk a good game

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / February 25, 2010

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FORT MYERS, Fla. - Red Sox owner John Henry has called on baseball to scrap its revenue-sharing program and replace it with a more stringent payroll tax. But what Henry considers an unfair system is not going to drive him out of the game.

“We’re not going anywhere,’’ he said yesterday. “We adore, we love this franchise. We speak every day on the phone, seven days a week. We are so committed to this franchise. It has been so much fun and so rewarding for us personally.’’

Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and team president Larry Lucchino met with reporters after speaking to the team before the first full-squad workout. The trio voiced optimism for the coming season.

“We think this is a very strong team, I think stronger than last year,’’ Henry said.

Said Lucchino: “One thing we’ve been saying since Day One is that our obligation is to build a team that is worthy of fan support, year in and year out. We think we have done that.

“There’s a balance to this team that’s really important. People are focusing on offense. We’ve been saying from the beginning that it’s all about balance.’’

Werner even offered what could be interpreted as a bold prediction.

“We said something that was a bit cocky when we came in, that we would try to win multiple World Series,’’ he said. “Hopefully we won’t stop at two.’’

The owners said plans for a new spring training facility to open in 2012 remain firm despite the recent news that Lee County has downsized the project for economic reasons.

“We’ve had nothing but healthy, productive conversations with the officials down here,’’ said Werner. “We’ve had very good dialogue.’’

Plans for the new facility are expected to be unveiled within the coming weeks.

Lucchino said the new complex would be modeled after Fenway Park in terms of the field dimensions. Lee County officials, he said, are hopeful of luring a team to replace the Red Sox at City of Palms Park. The Red Sox already share Fort Myers with the Twins.

The trio also touched on some other subjects:

■The field at Fenway Park in the wake of the Winter Classic: “It obviously got a lot of wear and tear,’’ Lucchino said. “It needs to be resodded, and that process hasn’t begun yet. We’ll know better in about two or three weeks. It required resodding over a significant part of the field.’’

The inclement weather in Boston isn’t helping that.

“I’m not a student of the growing season and the sodding process, but what I’m told is that, yes, the success of the resodding can be adversely affected by the weather,’’ Lucchino said. “That’s why these calls for us to do another Winter Classic or have more hockey games at Fenway, all of those things we just push to the side and put on hold.’’

■Their failed bid for the 2012 All-Star Game: “Very disappointed,’’ Henry said of the decision to give the game to Kansas City.

“He did make a valiant fight for it,’’ Werner said.

■Continuing the 550-game home-sellout streak: “It is a challenge,’’ Lucchino said. “But we think the fan loyalty is so broad and so deep that there’s a good chance it will continue. Once you get to this level, you’re at a new place and it’s very hard to predict what will happen.’’

Lucchino said ticket sales were a “tick behind’’ a year ago. But the team is having more difficulty with corporate sponsorships.

Lucchino said Fenway Park would have some “cool’’ improvements for fans this season as far as restroom and concession facilities but indicated that significant changes are not in the works.

Seasons change
One of the hot topics in spring training is whether the Sox will be able to score enough runs this season. But might the loss of Jason Bay and his 36 home runs be less of an issue than first thought?

The advent of testing for performance-enhancing drugs has placed more emphasis on having a well-balanced team and less on the idea of building a lineup around a few beefy sluggers.

“You don’t necessarily need that to be a good offense,’’ said Dustin Pedroia. “The Angels were second in the league [in scoring] last year and they had one guy hit 30 home runs. You don’t need everyone hitting 30 home runs to be a good offensive team.’’

For a guy who professes not to care about statistics, Pedroia came up with good ones. The Angels were second in the American League with 883 runs, and only Kendry Morales, with 34, hit more than 25 home runs.

The 2008 Rays are another good example. They went to the World Series with a lineup that featured only one hitter (Carlos Pena) who reached 30 home runs and 100 RBIs.

“The game has changed a little bit from five or six years ago,’’ Pedroia said. “We have guys who can hit 30, 35 home runs. We have a lot of guys who can do that. But a lot of our players, they can find other ways to score. That makes it fun.’’

Time to stand in
The position players will take live batting practice today with the relief pitchers on the mound. That will include Jonathan Papelbon, who is apparently over a bout with a sore back . . . Mike Lowell (right thumb, hip) did not practice with the group but swung at balls on a tee in the cage and took grounders . . . Daisuke Matsuzaka (back strain) played catch for the third straight day and today will long toss from 120 feet, another step toward getting back on the mound . . . Francona placed a call to his former bench coach, new Astros manager Brad Mills, to wish him well before his first full-squad practice . . . The team met for 45 minutes before the workout as the owners, general manager Theo Epstein, Francona, and some staff members addressed the group. “There are things that need to be said on the first day,’’ Francona said.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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