For starters, Valentine keeps Bard options open
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said yesterday that Daniel Bard, who projected to be the team’s closer after the departure of Jonathan Papelbon to the Phillies, would likely be prepped as a starter during spring training.
Valentine said Bard seemed receptive to the idea, but the manager left open the possibility of utilizing him as the closer.
“Daniel, as we would hope he would say, said, ‘Hey, whatever’s best for the team,’ ’’ Valentine told fans at yesterday’s Christmas at Fenway festivities.
“I’m going to go into spring training saying ‘whatever’s best for the team,’ but he’s going to get innings as a starter would in spring training,’’ Valentine said. “He’s going to be penciled in to be one of those guys who works going from his bullpen to pitching two innings to pitching four innings to pitching six innings.
“Whenever we get to that plateau, with the pitching coach I’ll hopefully have by my side soon, and all the members of the staff and front office, we’ll have to make a determination after that 18- to 20-inning mark as to where he will be during the season.
“I told him to prepare to be a starter and if that, in fact, does not happen, to be ready and willing to be our closer.’’
Jon Lester met Valentine for the first time.
“It was pretty cool to meet him,’’ Lester said. “Talked to him just a little bit and, obviously, we didn’t get into too deep of a conversation in five minutes. It was great to meet him and I’m excited for the new era.’’
Lester had kind words for Valentine’s predecessor, Terry Francona.
“Obviously, I’m sad to see Tito go,’’ Lester said. “He was a big part of my career, big part of my life coming up through this system. I was sad to see him go, but, like I said, I’m excited for the new era and we’ll see what we can do in the coming years.’’
Sox president Larry Lucchino shared his reaction to Albert Pujols signing a $254 million deal with the Angels.
“Really? Is this really happening? Again?’’ Lucchino said, referring to the Rangers signing Alex Rodriguez to a $200 million contract, one that financially hamstrung the club for years. “The last time it happened, it didn’t necessarily work out that well.
“My secondary reaction was, ‘My goodness, we have a new big-time rival in our league.’ ’’
Lester was impressed with the Angels signing Pujols and pitcher C.J. Wilson to a deal worth $77.5 million.
“The Angels did a good job - you’ve got to tip your hat to them,’’ said Lester. “They went out and wanted those two guys and they got them. It obviously makes their team that much better. Luckily, they’re in another division and we don’t have to face them too many times.’’
When one fan posed the question, “What kind of quality do you look for in a catcher,’’ Lester was quick to reply: “Uh, well, Tek,’’ referring to longtime Sox captain Jason Varitek, who was not offered salary arbitration.
When the crowd roared its approval, Lester muttered under his breath, “That answer may get me in trouble.’’
Unbeknownst to the lefthander, catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway were sitting backstage within earshot of Lester’s remarks.
“When you think of a catcher, you think of Tek,’’ Lester said. “He’s the mold. He’s the leader. It’s obvious why he’s had that C on his chest for so long.
“He’s confident in what he does and I think that aura of knowing what he wants to do with each hitter and having a game plan through the whole game, makes my job a lot easier.
“We have a lot of anxiety out there when you’re trying to figure out nine different hitters and you have so many different situations, so many things going on,’’ Lester said. “When you have a guy back there who can take the bull by the horns and kind of rein you back in and get you focused on what you’re trying to do, that’s the biggest thing.
“Salty started to learn that this year early,’’ Lester said, “and he did a good job of getting in there and really trying to mold himself off of Tek.’’
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said the next order of business was to shore up the rotation and back end of the bullpen. But just as important was the selection of a new pitching coach. Former Houston pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, who is familiar with Josh Beckett, has been mentioned as a candidate. “We’ve started the interview process, and we’ve met some really good candidates,’’ Cherington said. “It’s a critical decision and it has to be the right person. It has to be someone who complements Bobby and it has to be someone who complements the pitching staff. We got some guys, some veteran guys who know what they have to do to prepare for the season. But we also have some guys who are still developing in their career and it’s a critical decision that we need to get right.’’ . . . Cherington said there was no news on the compensation the Sox expect to receive from the Cubs for Theo Epstein. “There was an understanding of what the expectation was when he left,’’ Cherington said. To which Lucchino chimed, “I fully expect that we’ll get it done sometime in the next decade.’’ . . . Runners and walkers will participate in the third annual Run-Walk to Home Base May 20, 2012, in an event that ends with the crossing of Fenway’s home plate. A 3-mile walk will be added to the event’s 5.6-mile run, which raises funds for the Red Sox Foundation and the Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program, which provides clinical care and support services to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families. More information is available at runtohomebase.org.
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.