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Q&A with Bobby Valentine

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  February 19, 2012 09:59 AM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Here is Bobby Valentine's entire media session this morning:

On the start of camp: "You have questions how the team will come together, how the pitching staff will work with the catchers how the lineup will look and work together. I’d say we have all those questions and questions of good health, too.

"As far as positions we have a vacancy at shortstop, we have a vacancy in right field. Right now Carl [Crawford’s] health is a question for maybe Opening Day anyway. So we’ll deal with left field. A couple of spots in our starting rotation and our bullpen has open spots, also.

"Those are the questions that need to be answered. The idea of all the things coming together needs to be answered."

On the team's attitude: "Whether a team wins a championship or comes in last, there’s always concern on how the attitude will develop in a new year. Considering there were some major issues last year at the end and there’s major changes here at the beginning, I’m concerned about the attitude. But attitude filters down. When you see Josh Beckett and Jon Lester here, they’re the top of the pyramid as far as pitchers are concerned. They came early and they’re been showing fantastic attitude. So far that attitude with the pitching staff seems to be filtering down."

On his enthusiasm filtering down: "I do love the game and everyone I’ve talked to here in camp so far seems to love it as much as I do."

On his style of running a training camp: “Spring training for me is simply a foundation that you’re going to build as you move forward. Players need confidence. Coaches need confidence. Managers need confidence in each other. The way you build confidence, I think, is through repetition. Confidence can be replaced for courage. Often when you play before 50,000 people and you’re on national TV and the bases loaded and you’re on the mound or at the plate or there’s a line drive in the gap, you have to have the courage to do what you think you need to do. Right here is where that courage begins to build with practice.

"I think spring training is about practice and it’s about individual practice, it’s about group practice and it’s about team practice. As you go from the team practice you go to game practice. When game practice is over you head north to Detroit."

On the start of baseball: “I grew up waiting for the grass to get green and the tulips to come up and the weather to warm and the snow to melt. It’s the greatest part of the year for me. It was more than Christmas. It was more than birthdays for me. I think a lot of people of this region empathize with that and understand it’s a new beginning. That’s what spring is, it’s a new beginning. It’s a time for excitement. It’s not only in New England. It’s a time for excitement in every region of the country that has a major league baseball team.

On whether the players should be contrite about last season: “I definitely believe actions speak louder than words and the actions that I’ve watched the last five and six days are speaking volumes. I think that our fans will want to see more than they want to hear. But I think they need to hear something also."

On his message: "When you’re talking with this group that will be here, the 63 guys who will be here in uniform, I hate to paint all of them with the same brush. Many of them weren’t here. Many of them have no reason to feel they need to erase anything of their past. As far as a fresh start is concerned, absolutely [it is] for everyone in this camp. This is 2012, this the year that could be the most special year of their life. That is definitely a message I want them to understand regardless of what happened last year whether they were in Korea, Boston or the National League West. I want them to think that this is a special year."

On whether Jason Varitek will be here: "I don’t have any expectation. I haven’t heard that we should get his uniform ready."

On how to evaluate players for open jobs: “Determining the 25 men who break camp with us is a very tough process. All I’ll say is the only determining factor will not be their performance in the game. There will be many factors taken into consideration. We’ll try and put our best for forward. As I’ve said before, in 40-something Opening Days that I remember, I’ll bet half of them the star of the game wasn’t around a month later. It’s an imperfect science, this picking of a team in spring training.”

On Clay Buchholz:“First impressions of Clay Buchholz have been very impressive. He led the charge in the 300-yard [dash] with Jon Lester the first day. He set a great example there. When he’s stood on the mound and propelled the ball forward, every time he’s done it has been outstanding. I’m very impressed. In the training room, the reports are excellent. He has a great look in his eye. But it has been five days.”

On lineups: “Some of the research I did, I forget the exact number, but I know in the National League they averaged 114 lineups used. In the American League it was, I think, 101 on average used. I haven’t gotten that many written down yet. I think we’ll use 100 lineups this year.”

Can the diminished expectations be a rallying point: “I believe reality is one of the things that determines your future and your results. In dealing with reality, the reality is that we’re being challenged this year. We’re going to be challenged internally, we’re going to challenged externally by the team we’re going to have to play against. Sometimes it’s the great challenge that brings out the best in people and I hope that the best can be brought out of this group.”

Who is he eager to see in the rotation competition: “Daniel Bard, I can tell you right off the get-go, Daniel Bard is drawing a lot of attention. Love what we see and love what we’re thinking about. Andrew Miller can fall into a very similar situation.

“I don’t want to pick them out of the crowd even through I just did. There are probably eight guys who are going to be vying for those starting jobs. We’ve seen five of them and they all look good. [Felix] Doubront looks terrific so far.”

On converting relievers to the rotation: "In my career I haven’t seen a great challenge [in doing it]. Usually guys are starting pitchers in their mindset because they were in Little League and high school for the most part; many of them through college. Then you get into get into the big competition and you wind up somewhere else. Mentally, I don’t think it’s that great a challenge. Part of is the physical idea that you’re going through the lineup more than once and are responsible for base-runners more often. There are more plays you’re going to be coming in contact with during the course of the game and that physical transition sometimes becomes very challenging. That’s what we’ll look for. We’ll look to see who can hold runners, field their position, maintain their durability and concentration through the middle of the order than third time, that second time. That’s a tough test in spring training because they maybe get to go it once.”

On his being away from the big leagues for almost a decade: “If I were away from baseball for a decade, I would think that would be a challenge. I was managing a couple of years ago in a major league. Not this major league. But for what I do, I don’t think it’s going to be that tough a transition.”

On having so many early arrivals: “Guys make their own decisions. I think these decisions were made individually, not collectively. Bob McClure called a lot of the pitchers. I sent Christmas cards and New Year’s Eve cards to a lot of the guys. I talked to guys on the phone. They just decided what to do. I don’t know if I want to say surprised [but] yeah, I have been surprised. This has been much more than I expected.”

Any late arrivals: “Haven’t heard yet. Aceves is having a little trouble. Padilla did show up. Silva’s having a tough time getting out of the Midwest. He’s a problem I think."

Ready to announce his Opening Day starter? “No.”

Is this his biggest challenge: “I hope I make it out of spring training and if I do I’ll take it one day at a time. Your biggest challenge is your next challenge. This is my next challenge. There’s no discounting the fact that this is what it is I’m not going to downplay it."

Is this the most talented roster he has had: “Yes. I have more star players going into this season than I ever have, I think. Yeah, I think that’s easy. Easy.

Does that affect how he manages: “I don’t think so. I don’t know. How I’ll manage will be determined by who it is I’m managing. That group of star players is not who I’m managing.”

On Jose Iglesias: “He’s a very intriguing player. I’m very anxious to see him, work with him and figure out who and what he is. Looking forward to it."

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