Valentine quickly making the rounds
DALLAS - For a while, anyway, Bobby Valentine will be the story.
He has energized the Red Sox fan base, which the organization expected. Valentine, looking and feeling a bit worn after making a quick visit to David Ortiz in the Dominican Republic, said he has reached out to all Sox players and offered to meet with both Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, native Texans, while here for the winter meetings.
Valentine said that trainer Mike Reinold is visiting with both players and will report back on their offseason workouts. He said Crawford hasn’t answered his phone and Beckett hasn’t returned his call. Valentine was critical of Beckett as an ESPN analyst, saying the righthander takes too much time between pitches.
By the time he arrived in Dallas at 1:30 yesterday afternoon, Valentine was already interviewing or contacting possible pitching coaches and working with general manager Ben Cherington to finalize the staff.
“Talked to a lot of candidates,’’ Valentine said. “Ben, like I, feels it’s very important to get them in place. I think we’ll take a little longer than shorter so Ben and his staff can concentrate on the business at hand here. If we can fit in an interview or two here, we’ll do that.’’
One candidate could be Brad Arnsberg, who was Beckett’s pitching coach in Florida. Arnsberg spent a few years in Toronto and then went to Houston, which fired him in June. But he’s considered a good pitching coach and lives in the Dallas area.
Other options include Rick Peterson, the former A’s, Mets, and Brewers pitching coach; former Sox pitching coach Dave Wallace; and former Sox pitcher Mike Brown, a scout with the Diamondbacks who coached phenom Yu Darvish and former Sox lefty Hideki Okajima in Japan.
Former Sox pitching coach Al Nipper recently became the Tigers’ minor league pitching coordinator, but he could get a call. The Sox also recently hired former Royals pitching coach Bob McClure as a scout.
Valentine said hitting coach Dave Magadan started getting phone calls from family stating he had been replaced by Bill Buckner, a longtime friend of Valentine and a former major league hitting coach.
“I don’t like to be in that situation with anyone,’’ Valentine said. “Ben mentioned the rapport [Magadan] had with the players. I looked at the obvious results the offense had under his tutelage and I didn’t think I could improve on that.’’
And so Valentine asked Magadan to stay, and Magadan accepted.
Valentine also said he wants to take an active role in managing the pitching staff, but “I don’t try to teach mechanics because if you teach incorrect mechanics you can cost a kid his career. Put that in the hands of expert people to deal with the throwing process. But I like to make in-game decisions and understand what they throw and how they feel and how they’re going about getting people out. The pitching staff is as crucial a part of the team as anything and I would like to be responsible for that.’’
It’s expected the Sox will take advantage of Valentine’s experience with Japanese players, but Valentine thinks that’s down the line.
Darvish is a hot commodity, but he may not be posted until January. The Sox could put in a bid, though it’s highly unlikely they would go as high as the $51 million they posted for Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Asked about working with Matsuzaka, who may return from reconstructive elbow surgery by midseason, Valentine said, “Dice-K is on the backburner. I’m a little weird in that when a guy is not healthy and not ready, he’s not part of my plan. When he’s healthy and ready to return, I’ll be very excited.’’
Valentine said he met with 12 ex-players on his recent trip to Japan and was impressed with the feedback he got on Matsuzaka while he rehabilitates.
“I was really impressed with what I heard from the players who knew him about his conditioning, about his determination, about his not being satisfied with what he’s done. He wants to set the record straight when he comes back. I like that,’’ Valentine said.
Per usual, Valentine spoke of broader, general issues such as leadership. He mentioned a speech given by basketball great Bill Russell at Ortiz’s celebrity golf tournament last week.
“He believed at that time while he’s coaching that he felt the inclusion of the players was a very important piece to a coach’s success,’’ Valentine said. “Whether he actually walked that walk, it was an amazing, insightful thought at a time in sports when it was a dictatorial, militaristic setup, where it was my way or the highway. He thought inclusion was the key.’’
Valentine said he would never have gone to Tommy Lasorda to offer his input as a player with the Dodgers.
“You have to allow inclusion,’’ Valentine said. “That’s one of the needs players have. When I played, that wasn’t a need I had.’’
He told the story of a young Japanese player who asked him if he could be with his wife while she gave birth. It was unheard of in Japan for a player to leave his team during a crucial series. But Valentine allowed it, and the player became the MVP of the Japan Series in 2005.
Valentine’s views have changed over the years to adapt to the players. While he’s never been considered a player’s manager (though he’s more of one than people think), he’s more open than ever to their needs.
And that is the person who will lead the Red Sox into spring training in February.