FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clearly, spring training has started.
For the first time this spring, manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein got together on the benches outside the clubhouse to address the assembled media. They talked about topics ranging from the quietness of this camp (so far) to Mike Lowell’s progress to the team’s catching situation.
Here are some selected comments:
On what the reporting date means to New England…
Francona: “What it means to the fans is that it’s that time of the year where everybody can start trying to think about warming up. When it’s 20 degrees up in New England, it gives them something to look forward to. For us in the baseball community it’s exciting. It doesn’t matter how many times you do it. Every year it’s just as exciting and this year’s no different for us.”
On the catching situation . . .
Epstein: “We’re really happy to have Jason back. We’ll look for him to have a bit of a bounce-back year offensively as well. We know he will be the same great influence on our pitching staff that he’s always been. Brought Josh Bard in, also fits into that category of good players who are coming off down seasons for them. We think he’s healthy and looking to prove himself again. We have a number of good young catchers in camp, George Kottaras, Dusty Brown, Mark Wagner. That said, we’ve been up-front that it’s an area where we’re still probably out there looking for our catcher of the future. One of these guys in our camp, one of the young guys, wants to step forward and prove that he’s that guy, that would be great. We’re always open to opportunities to improve outside the organization.
On the new faces at camp . . .
Francona: “I love it. We just went through our second day of meetings. Today it was the pitchers. We probably have a unique amount of young guys in our major league camp this year, and that’s by design. It probably makes for a more exciting camp for me and the coaches. There are some younger kids that are going to see some time in games that don’t need to be ready to make our ballclub, but that still doesn’t make camp less exciting. If anything, it will be fun to watch their progression, how they handle themselves.”
On the confidence the team has in Jacoby Ellsbury…
Epstein: “I think Jacoby’s already an impact defender and an impact baserunner, and I think based on his track record in the minor leagues this is a guy we all feel is going to hit and get on base enough to be a real weapon offensively, more so than he already is. The league adjusted to him last year. They found a hole and really exploited it, which is really common with young hitters. Now it’s his turn to adjust back. He’s got the talent level and I think the drive to make the adjustment. It will be fun to watch him play. We also I think have a roster that can protect him a little bit, where maybe he’s ready to take that next step. If he’s not, I don’t think it’s going to sink our club either. We’re pretty bullish on Ellsbury long-term. He needs a chance to play.
On Mike Lowell’s progress…
Epstein: “[The reports have] been pretty good. We just got an update yesterday that he’s not experiencing any pain or any symptoms and he’s doing some baseball activities. He hasn’t really run yet full-fledged, and that’s going to be an important step for him, but he’s hitting and doing some other baseball activities. We’re going to take it slow. We’re going to hold him back. We’re not focused on what he looks like on the report date or when the first exhibition date happens. The whole rehab is built around the proper timetable, which happens to coincide with getting him ready for opening day.”