A few final impressions before shipping off to Boston early tomorrow morning:
* Terry Francona really likes baseball. I know what you’re thinking, of course he does. But it has been my experience that some managers take the job more because they like the fame and the money or they enjoy the lifestyle. But Francona seems to really like the game. He was on the field every day, playing first base during infield drills, hitting grounders to the infielders, watching young pitchers in the bullpen, etc. He strikes me like a guy who would be happy managing a Class A team somewhere.
* Most people also have no idea how hard the coaches work. There was room across the hall from the clubhouse full of laptops and it was rare when you didn’t see DeMarlo Hale, Dave Magadan and John Farrell in there breaking down video or going over scouting reports. Those guys were at the ballpark 10-12 hours a day.
* It was amazing to watch how well Scott Atchison, Alan Embree, Joe Nelson and Scott Schoeneweis got along knowing that only two of them would get jobs at the end of camp. Their lockers were on the same wall of the clubhouse and every morning they would sit in their chairs and joke around while eating breakfast or reading the paper. There was genuine comradeship. “We’ll all been through this before,” Nelson told me last week when I asked him about that dynamic. “It does you no good to root against the other guys.
* Every locker had a box on top that could be padlocked. That’s where the players kept their cell phones, wallets, watches, etc. The only player who kept it locked was Jonathan Papelbon.
* A lot of my friends have asked what is the biggest difference between covering the Yankees and the Red Sox. One word: Hair. The Yankees don’t allow their guys to have long hair or facial hair beyond a mustache. The Red Sox look like a bunch of bikers and surfers. Either way, it doesn’t make a difference in how you play.
* I’d like to tell you that Mike Lowell is embracing the idea of playing off the bench. But he gives off the vibe of somebody who hates every second of it. He thinks he got screwed and isn’t ready to concede the idea that he isn’t a starting player.
That said, if he sticks around he could prove very valuable.
* Theo Epstein never wears any Red Sox gear. Not even a hat. Brian Cashman is the same way with the Yankees. I wonder why that is?
* You should worry just as much about the Rays as you do about the Yankees. The Rays are very talented and deep and seem like a hungry team. There certainly wasn’t a better team in spring training in Florida.
* Victor Martinez had his brother with him throughout spring training. He had a chair next to his locker and was always sitting there. I have no idea what the guy was there for, but he was always there.
* Fans could get free tours of City of Palms before games and the press box was one of the stops. The tour guide would point to the empty broadcast booth and say, “That’s where Jerry Remy sits” and people would snap photos like it was the Oval Office.
* John Lackey walked one batter in 20 innings this spring — and that after curtailing his throwing over the winter in an effort to avoid another preseason injury. You will love how quickly the guy works on the mound.
* Manny Delcarmen has to be hurt. He has no command and his velocity is 4-5 mph less than what it was last season. If he’s not hurt, then he forgot how to pitch.
* Junichi Tazawa will fly to Alabama on Monday night, get his Tommy John surgery on Tuesday and be back in Fort Myers on Wednesday. Does Dr. James Andrews have a drive-through?
* Every beat writer in the world is on Twitter now, trying to report the news 140 characters at a time. But as newspapers try and find their place in the digital media world, what is the point of reporting news on another company’s web site?
* Finally saw Crazy Heart. Great film and Jeff Bridges deserved his Oscar.
* I’ll be rooting for Scott Atchison. Hope you are, too.
* As they get close to agreeing to a deal with Josh Beckett, the Sox have yet to open negotiations with Victor Martinez. Maybe they want to see V-Mart prove himself over a full season.
* Now that Joe Mauer is off the market, get ready for the Sox and Yankees fight for Carl Crawford next winter. It would be easy to trade Mike Cameron and put Jacoby Ellsbury back in center.
* Thanks to all the readers who said hello in spring training, e-mailed or commented on the blog. One of the best parts of this job is meeting people who love baseball. You guys notice more than the people who are paid to notice it.
* Finally, here is my iPhone photo of Don Zimmer’s golf cart at the Tampa Bay camp. How great is that?