FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona held court with reporters for a little over eight minutes following Boston’s first official workout of the spring at the Player Development Complex.
The conversation centered heavily on the presence of Jason Varitek and how much that means to Francona.
“A lot,” the manager answered. “He wears the (captain’s) ‘C’ on his uniform. They haven’t handed that out very often, and there’s a lot of reasons behind it. He’s in great shape. It makes our lives as coaches and manager easier knowing he’s back there putting those fingers down.
Francona didn’t expect any lingering effects from the extended contract negotiations.
“The business side of baseball, sometimes it has a little longer life, that’s the way it is,” he said. “Once the uniform is on, it’s over.”
When questions turned to whether Francona might pinch hit for Varitek during the 2009 season, the manager quickly dismissed it. He went out of his way to emphasize that Varitek’s 2008 struggles would not be held against him going into a new year.
“It’s the first day of spring and you got me hitting for him,” said Francona. “But to answer your question, I would not look for that. If you’re waiting for him to be hit for early in the season, I wouldn’t hold your breath.”
As for the players without a ‘C’ on their jersey that participated today:
“The thing we tried to tell the pitchers before they came out was to do the (pitcher’s fielding practice) professionally and, when on the mound, don’t try to do too much,” said Francona. “Working up a little arm strength — you’ll hear arm strength a lot for the next two weeks — there’s plenty of time once the games start to show what they can do.”
Francona noted that Tim Wakefield is suffering some lower back soreness, but completed his throwing.
Jed Lowrie and J.D. Drew were two early arrivals for position players.