Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said reliever Daniel Bard, who projected as the team’s closer after the departure of Jonathan Papelbon to the Philadelphia Phillies, would be prepped as a starter during spring training.
“Daniel, as we would hope he would say, `Hey, whatever’s best for the team,’ ” Valentine said, when asked about Bard’s role in the starting rotation or bullpen in 2012 during 30-minute question-and-answer session today before a live audience of fans at the EMC Club during Christmas at Fenway festivities.
“I’m going to go into spring training saying, `Whatever’s best for the team,’ but he’s going to get innings as a starter would in spring training,” Valentine said. “He’s going to be penciled in to be one of those guys who works going from his bullpen to pitching two innings to pitching four innings to pitching six innings.
“Whenever we get to that plateau, with the pitching coach I’ll hopefully have by my side soon, and all the members of the staff and front office,” Valentine said. “We’ll have to make a determination after that 18-20 inning mark as to where he will be during the season. I told him to prepare to be a starter and if that, in fact, does not happen to be ready and willing to be our closer.”
Valentine experienced first-hand the passion and pride — and, in many cases, concern about September’s 7-20 collapse — of Red Sox Nation during the question-and-answer session.
“When our performance doesn’t match up with your passion, it’s OK to let me know about it,” Valentine said in his first address to Sox fans. “I only expect it and you deserve it. If you’re not happy, then I’m not happy. Ultimately, we can smile together someday.”
Here’s an excerpt of some of his other remarks:
On the phone conversation he had with Josh Beckett, who was angry over comments Valentine made about the lengthy delays in his delivery when he was an ESPN broadcaster: “He told me not to talk about the conversation so I’m not going to talk about the conversation. But I’ll talk about the length of the conversation. It was 20 minutes maybe a little more. But the first two sentences were, `Oh, by the way, I was really pissed off at what you said,’ and I said, `Let’s get that out of the way,’ and I said, `OK, that’s out of the way,’ and we talked about everything else. That was kind of the extent for his dislike of what I said.
“I’ll say this, because it’s apropos and he won’t mind, he felt at the time, and probably correctly so, he was dominating the Yankees. I mean he was totally dominating them when he pitched and one of the things that was mentioned from across the field [at Yankees Stadium] was mentioned by Kevin Long, according to him. I didn’t remember this as an ESPN announcer, but Kevin Long started complaining about him talking too long. And he felt, well, why don’t I take long and if they don’t like it, then that’s exactly what I want to do. Whatever they don’t like, and what makes them uncomfortable, makes them unsuccessful. And we at ESPN fell into the Kevin Long strategy of trying to reverse his success.
“So I get it. Maybe I did. That’s where it was a frenzy and it led to watching the game and I had read or heard what Kevin had said and I was reiterating it.”
On his experience managing in Japan: “It was a glorious experience. I got to work in a foreign country, obviously, with people who love the game of baseball like we do here and they love to watch it and they’re passionate and they’re behind their team and the players love to come early and leave late and love to play the game.”
On how Bobby Valentine in 2012 will differ from Terry Francona in 2011: “I’m not very good at listing bests and worsts and I’m not very good at making comparisons. I tend to know what I am; I’m not sure what Terry is and was other than very successful and very well-liked. I think the only difference that I can say is that I did take my first shower in the manager’s office today after I worked out and I can’t figure this out folks: There’s no soap in the shower and there’s three bottles of shampoo and one conditioner. I’m not making this up. What is that?
“You guys will be really good at figuring out the differences. I won’t be wearing a sweatshirt during the games, so that will be noticeable for all the fans.”
On the Angels’ acquisiton of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the best hitter and pitcher available on the free agent market: “They did go for it and it’s a little stunning to see both guys go to one time. I’m glad it wasn’t a little further East. I’m glad it’s a team we won’t see until August and, maybe, after that.”
On his impressions of the front office approach to Winter Meetings: “I was impressed with the group atmosphere. I was used to being at Winter Meetings with five people or six people. We had 20-plus and everyone knew what they were doing and felt like they were part of it and it was unique.”
On his `hatred’ of the Yankees, which he expressed during the Winter Meetings: “Part of my history is that I tried to share the city as the New York Mets manager with the New York Yankees. You can imagine what that’s like. And now, I have to fight them for the top of the American League East. I don’t know, maybe the H-word is too tough. They made me miserable many a night and I hope to make them miserable many a night.”