FORT MYERS, Fla. — Do you realize that with Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek gone, Jon Lester now has the fourth-most tenure on the Red Sox?
Only David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis and Josh Beckett have been around longer. Lester beat Pedroia to the majors by two months in 2006.
That’s one of the reasons why the big lefty is planning to be more of a leader this season. He has been here for many good times and the stunning disappointment that was last September. That puts him in a unique position.
If you read Lester’s comments from earlier today, he wants to be more of a “presence” around the team. You also get the sense that he plans to be with the public, too. He spoke to reporters for 21 minutes today and was patient with every question, even the silly ones.
Lester has long treated interviews like root canals, even with all his success. But he stepped up and was accountable last October when he called the Globe to discuss his role in the clubhouse scandal and he was candid again today.
Those are good signs. Most prominent players realize that being at least somewhat of a spokesman is part of their responsibilities. Fans want to hear from them and know that somebody cares.
Lester showed today that he cares.
In his own irascible way, Josh Beckett did the same thing. Beckett is not the kind of guy who’s going throw himself on the mercy of the court of public opinion. He doesn’t much care what anybody thinks of him. But he did admit to “lapses of judgment” and said such things couldn’t continue.
Beckett is the kind of pitcher he is, in part, because of his personality. He’s arrogant on the mound and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. You can’t just turn that off. In the end, his job is to pitch and he does that pretty well. If you want somebody to make a speech, he’s not your man.
In a way, you almost have to admire him for not taking the easy road out and mumbling a bunch of cliches about how sorry he is. It would have disingenuous of him.
September was nearly five months ago. At some point you have to turn the page and the Red Sox did that effectively today.
If you want somebody to beat a mea culpa out of John Lackey, fine. But what is that going to accomplish at this point?
As to other matters:
• Jason Varitek did not come into camp and it doesn’t appear he is going to. At this juncture, it seems to be a question of how and when he announces his retirement.
• Yankees GM Brian Cashman on the Red Sox: “What happened with the Red Sox last year did not represent what the Red Sox are whatsoever,” he told reporters in Tampa. “I said what the Red Sox were last year and they were that, talent-wise. Adversity and that type of ending automatically presses a reset button for that franchise.
“Their players are going to come in and have a completely different culture now. They have a brand-new spring training facility opening up this year, they have a new manager, new general manager, players that had to self-evaluate last year all winter long.
“I guarantee every one of those players comes into camp in the best shape they’ve ever been in. Not that they weren’t in the past, but if there was any question, I guarantee that’s not going to be a question now. They’ll be geared up.”
• Catching instructor and bullpen coach Gary Tuck remains away from the team following surgery. “I don’t want the calendar to dictate his return to uniform. He’s a tough guy who’s going through a personal situation internally and it’s painful,” Valentine said. “I told him take as much time as he can. His catchers and our guys will fill the void until he gets here.”
• The only late arrival to camp is righthander Alfredo Aceves, who is having some visa issues in Mexico.
• Mike Aviles said shortstop was his natural position and he’s ready to go. He was surprised that Marco Scutaro got traded.
• Finally, best of luck to Mike Cameron. He retired today, electing not to go to camp with the Nationals. Cameron did not play well during his brief tenure with the Red Sox. But this was a player who had a .782 career OPS and won three Gold Gloves. He also had 278 home runs, 1,700 hits and stole 297 bases. That’s a heck of a career.
There are many baseball writers, and I’m one of them, who counts Cam as one of the best guys they covered. Hopefully he’ll be back as a coach or a broadcaster down the road.
Catch you tomorrow.