Yes, he plays left field. Yes, he’s a righthanded batter and yes, he is batting in the middle of the Red Sox order. But any comparisons to Manny Ramirez can end there, thank you very much.
Newcomer Jason Bay, acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates at Thursday’s trade deadline, plans to carve out his own niche as he begins his Boston career tonight. Manager Terry Francona put Bay in the No. 5 spot in his debut against the Oakland A’s, suiting up behind third baseman Mike Lowell.
“It’s inevitable,” said Bay at his introductory press conference tonight at Fenway, when asked about being sized up against Ramirez. “I know that. But I got traded to Pittsburgh for Brian Giles in essence and once again, it wasn’t quite the grand scale of this one but it’s something I can’t control. I’m not going to be Manny Ramirez, I know that. I’m going to try to do what I can do. Kind of going through what I’ve gone through, I think I’m equipped to handle that. You’ve got to go out and play the game. I understand that that stuff is out there but that’s beyond my control.”
He said he received a warm welcome when he landed at Logan Airport, saying that “numerous” people tried to help him with his baggage.
“It was actually very, very … overwhelming, really,” he said. “It’s going to be something I’ll probably never forget, that’s for sure. I can’t wait. Everyone says the best fans in baseball are here and I can’t wait to be a part of the home team.”
He said it hasn’t really sunk in that he’s on a roster that is considered one of the top contenders for a championship.
“Pack a bag, get on a flight, get here, meet the entire team and an entire staff and then go out there and play a game and all of a sudden just have it click that you’ve been submersed in the middle of a pennant race and you have a chance to win a ring,” said Bay. “I don’t think it’s going to resonate that quick. I think I might need a day or two to let it sink in. I fully intend to let it sink in.”
Bay, who has a .282 batting average with 22 home runs and 64 RBIs in 106 games with the Pirates, is wearing No. 44. He said there weren’t a whole lot of choices.
“It was slim pickings when it came down to the numbers,” he said. “Eric Davis was a childhood idol of mine and he wore No. 44. so why not?”
Bay, a native of Trail, British Columbia whose father was a diehard Red Sox fan (Bay mentioned he still has a Red Sox onesie he wore as a child and also had Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski posters), said he found out he was dealt about a half hour after the 4 p.m. deadline, so instead of getting on a bus with his teammates to go to the airport for a trip to Chicago, he was told he was being rerouted here.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Bay. “I just went home and packed my bag and got here at 1 o’clock.”
For a while after the deadline passed, Bay thought he was staying put with the Pirates. There were a myriad of rumors but he didn’t think they’d turn into anything because he hadn’t heard anything concrete.
“My head was spinning,” he said. “My name was everywhere and the deadline passed and I thought, ‘All that and nothing.’ All of a sudden, a half hour after the deadline, I get called into the office and they say, ‘You’ve been traded.’ If I was a free agent, I couldn’t have picked a better place to go to, I don’t think.”
Bay has played against the Red Sox during the interleague portion of the schedule, saying when he came to town as a member of the Pirates there was one thing he remembered above all.
“It’s actually stupid but I remember the stands singing, ‘Sweet Caroline,’ ” he said. “I thought that was kind of neat, just the way everyone got into the game. The atmosphere, having not been a part of that, we had come from Yankee Stadium the series before that, the atmosphere was totally different. It was just like, ‘Wow, I can do this.'”