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Feeling hearty again, Remy’s plate is full

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / April 4, 2010

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One of Jerry Remy’s most appealing attributes as a broadcaster is that he leans toward reason rather than reaction. His opinions and observations regarding the Red Sox are presented with little verbal fat and even less room for interpretation. He’s clear-eyed, concise, and much more often than not, correct.

Which is why when you have him on the phone to discuss the beginning of this 23d season as the Red Sox’ television color analyst, the inclination is to ask him right away for his insight on the remodeled “run prevention’’ Red Sox. But given the difficult circumstances of last season, when complications after surgery for lung cancer resulted in him taking a leave of absence from early April through the first few weeks of August, a different leadoff question seems appropriate.

How are you feeling?

“I’m doing well, obviously much, much better than I was doing a year ago at this time,’’ said Remy, 57, who will begin his 10th season paired with play-by-play voice Don Orsillo when the Red Sox open against the Yankees tonight at Fenway Park. “I was physically very weak, I’d lost a lot of weight from the infection I got after the surgery, and I was concerned that, you know, there were going to be problems. So compared to a year ago, there’s no comparison. I feel like myself again. I put the weight back on that I lost. I feel strong, and mentally I’m doing well.’’

Remy’s journey back to wellness was not easy, and since returning to the booth Aug. 21, he has been candid about his struggle. He battled depression and did not watch the Red Sox while he was recovering. In retrospect, he realized he tried to return much too soon after his surgery.

“I just didn’t realize how run-down I was,’’ he said. “I got through the cancer surgery fine, I was doing pretty well, then I got that infection, which was really worse than the surgery. It knocked me totally on my butt. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t keep anything down. It was terrible. And it coincided with coming down here to spring training. In fact, when spring training started last year, I was in the hospital being treated for that; I was on IVs for three weeks to get rid of the infection. So when I got down here, there were like two weeks left in spring training, and I was just a rail. It was almost like I was at my playing weight, for crying out loud, 155 pounds.

“You know athletes, or former athletes, you feel like you’re going to get better, everyone’s telling you you’re going to get better, but the fact is, when you don’t feel right physically, it starts to affect you mentally, and when you can’t do your job, things start to collapse on you. It was just a year I’d like to forget, because it wasn’t any fun at all.’’

There is still plenty of fun to be found for Remy, who plans “to play all 162 this year.’’ He said his overall perspective hasn’t been altered by what he endured.

“As a cancer victim . . . well, I don’t know if you ever get over that,’’ he said. “Everybody’s different, but it’s something that’s always on your mind, you feel very fortunate that you were able to beat it. As far as my lifestyle and baseball, it’s all the same to me. I still love it, I love the game, I love my job. Does it change you? Yeah, it changes you, but it doesn’t change my feeling about the game that I love. And for me to be going into my 23d year, never in my wildest imagination did I ever think I’d be this for half this long, so I couldn’t be happier with how it’s gone and how it’s going.’’

That’s not to suggest Remy, who broke in alongside the legendary Ned Martin in 1988, is keen on reviewing his own work.

“I can’t even stand to listen to myself now, but I really can’t stand to listen to myself then,’’ he said with a laugh. “When I first started with Ned, I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing. Thank God I broke in with a guy like him that was so laid-back, because he helped you grow. Obviously, the more you do things, the better you get at them, especially if you’ve never done it before.

“Like I said, I’m pretty proud of the fact that I’ve been able to do it now for 23 years.’’

The season begins with tonight’s nationally televised game (it airs at 8 locally on NESN, and on ESPN2 outside the Boston and New York markets). The festivities will include an expanded pregame show featuring host Tom Caron and analysts Dennis Eckersley (who returns to a studio role after excelling as Remy’s main fill-in last season), Jim Rice, and Peter Gammons, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Now, about Remy’s take on this year’s Red Sox model . . .

“Well, I’m not as pessimistic about the offense as some people,’’ he said, noting that he thinks David Ortiz is the key and will be productive after an uneven 2009 season. “They’ve got some really good offensive players up and down the order, but losing Jason Bay kind of gave the impression that they were getting away from offense. It’s a little bit different of a makeover than you expected in the offseason.

“But defensively, they’re so much better, they’re better pitching-wise with [John] Lackey, and if the offense does struggle some, that can easily be fixed during the season, much easier than if you have to fix a pitching staff. So all in all, I think they’re a pretty well-balanced club. It’s tough to tell [in spring training] how things are going to go because you very seldom get to see the team together on a particular day and you almost never get to see them play a complete game. But we’ll find out pretty quick starting [tonight], and I think we’re all looking forward to finding out. I know I am.’’

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com.

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