DALLAS — Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon addressed Bobby Valentine's hire in Boston:
"I'm really happy for him," Maddon said. "Gotten to be friends with him over the last couple of years as he's been a broadcaster, and we've been fortunate to be in the playoffs, have had some really good conversations with Bobby so I don't know him that well outside of that.
"I think it's very interesting, I think it makes our division even more interesting as you suggested. I'm not going to say better because I'm not going to denigrate Tito (Francona). I thought Tito did a great job while he was there, and I had a lot of respect for him, a ton of respect for him. It's just a different scenario there now. It's a different form of competition. But Bobby definitely is going to add to the interest level in our division. And in baseball in general, I he's a wonderful man. I love his enthusiasm for the day, not just baseball."
Maddon was also asked about Manny Ramirez' possible return after retiring last season. His 100-game suspension for a second offense has been reduced to 50 games for time served.
"It's up to Manny," Maddon said. "I can understand why. I got to know him a little bit last year, not a lot, and he really does have a passion for the game. I think that gets overlooked sometimes, and there's all the Manny being Manny items, but he and I, we did well together. Like I said, conversationally it does not surprise me that he would like to come back and do this.
"I'm okay with this, as long as it's within the parameters and the rules and everything that's been set forth, and as long as he's done; kind of like served his time, that's cool. I would wish him well. I don't know how it's all going to shake out, but again, I think he's misinterpreted sometimes. This guy really is a baseball player and loves to play baseball," Maddon said.
As for Jonathan Papelbon leaving the Red Sox, Maddon said: He's good. He was real good last year. I don't know what they're going to go with their bullpen without him. I don't know how they're going to set it up. But he's very forceful, and that's the kind of a force that's difficult to lose and rebuild from.
"It's not only about him, it's what he does to everybody around him. When you're able to nail down that ninth and even part of the eighth with him, it makes everybody stronger around him and makes Bard a better pitcher, et cetera. I've read where they might even be starting Bard. I don't know if that's true. It's something when you take somebody that good out of your bullpen, there's no question. But they've got tremendous resources and they're very creative, so I don't doubt that there's something that they're having in the mix right now that's going to be pretty darned good, too.
"But Papelbon is one of the better ones out there. I am not sorry to see him become a National Leaguer.
Ski season updates, free from the Boston Globe.
Get the Globe's free newsletter, It's All Downhill, for the latest from the slopes.