Thursday, April 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Intense manager Bobby Valentine keeps Boston Red Sox on the move

FORT MYERS — The pace Bobby Valentine has set in his first camp as Red Sox manager can best be described as a blur.

Blink, and you might miss him.

Valentine, 61, moves like a man half his age, pacing quickly from field to field behind Fenway South. He's on each diamond for only a minute or two, drawing a crowd of fans as he goes.

At one, Valentine offers instruction during pitchers' fielding practice. Next, he pulls a video camera out of his jacket pocket to record a drill. In what Valentine calls the "no-shag camp," there's no standing around. And it starts with Valentine's hands-on approach, even playing catch with right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, surprising the Japanese right-hander.

"I couldn't keep up with him," general manager Ben Cherington said. "He eats and sleeps and breathes baseball and spends every waking moment trying to think of ways to help players and help the team get better. I'm not surprised to see him so active."

After its collapse in September, losing a nine-game lead and the wild card to the Rays, Boston decided it needed a change. The Red Sox parted ways with the more laid-back Terry Francona, hiring the in-your-face Valentine.

The change has been more than just Valentine's much-publicized decision to ban beer from the clubhouse. Valentine, who served as an ESPN analyst after managerial stints with the Rangers, Mets and Chiba Lotte Marines (Japan), is more forthcoming. He hasn't been afraid to fan the flames of the Yankees rivalry, including praising now-retired catcher Jason Varitek for how he "beat up" Alex Rodriguez in 2004.

Red Sox players say Valentine is just as blunt with them, telling pitchers in their first meeting they "stunk" in fielding last year. To get the point across, one of three flat screens in the clubhouse had highlights of pitchers from around the league making plays with the glove.

"I've never seen anyone approach a spring training or deal with players quite the way he does," right-hander Daniel Bard said. "But it's different in a good way.

"I'm curious to see how it plays out over the course of spring and the whole season. But he's brought a lot of intensity and energy, and those are all things we need."

With Valentine, there's a method to his madness. The cameras, which all coaches have, are for later evaluation. He explains his rapid movement from field to field as "inspecting what you expect," following up on what he asked the coaches to instruct.

Bench coach Tim Bogar, who played for Valentine with the Mets, said he hasn't changed much. He's a great teacher who is organized and seems to "see everything." Bogar, a coach with the Rays in 2008, says he sees similarities between Valentine and Rays manager Joe Maddon.

"They're both forward-thinkers; think out of the box but also don't settle for the ordinary," Bogar said.

And as for Valentine rarely settling into the same spot at camp, he offered another quip.

"If I sat down," Valentine said, "I'd probably go to sleep."

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