BOSTON — Bobby Valentine took over as Red Sox manager on Thursday, promising to be hardworking, open-minded and even humble as he tries to get the franchise back to the playoffs.
"It's more than a special day. It's the beginning of a life that's going to extend beyond anything I thought of doing," Valentine said. "The talent level of the players we have in this organization is a gift to anyone, and I think I'm a receiver of this gift.
"I think we're going to do this, man," he said, smiling and shaking hands with general manager Ben Cherington.
Valentine, 61, agreed to a two-year deal with club options for 2014 and 2015.
"There is a buzz," Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said, adding Valentine's personality and history in New York with the Mets could enhance an already intense rivalry with the Yankees. "I think it does add a little bit of kerosene to the fire."
Said owner John Henry: "Bobby's a big personality. I think that's a plus."
Valentine brings a reputation as a polarizing figure who isn't afraid to criticize his players publicly — something ex-manager Terry Francona never did — and who bickered with his boss at the Mets. He takes over a team that went 7-20 in September to miss the playoffs. Some players reportedly drank beer and ate chicken in the clubhouse during games.
"Reputation is something other people think about you," he said. "Right now, maybe this group of guys has a reputation that is not warranted. I can tell you I look forward to working with this group and establishing a culture of excellence."
The most intriguing part of the news conference? The possibility of making Bill Buckner the team's hitting coach.
Valentine and Buckner were college roommates who played together in the Dodgers' system. The new Boston skipper said he would consider the former Red Sox first baseman for his staff.
Despite a 21-year career in which he amassed 2,715 hits, Buckner was best remembered in Boston for his ninth-inning error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series that helped the Mets win. The sting of that loss wasn't diminished until the Red Sox ended their 86-year championship drought in 2004.
Report: Marlins get All-Star Bell: The Marlins have signed closer Heath Bell to a three-year, $27 million contract, ESPN.com reported, pending a physical today. Ozzie Guillen Jr., son of the Marlins' new manager, tweeted he was celebrating the signing with his father. Bell, 34, was an All-Star the past three seasons as the Padres' closer.
Players approve deal: The players union ratified a labor deal that runs through the 2016 season. The deal, agreed to last week, starts blood testing for human growth hormone and institutes restraints on signing bonuses for amateur draft picks and international players. The owners have not scheduled a vote but might hold a conference call rather than wait for their next meeting Jan. 11-12.
Dodgers: Infielder Adam Kennedy signed a one-year deal.
Orioles: Backup catcher Taylor Teagarden was acquired from the Rangers for minor-league right-hander Randy Henry and a player to be named.
Yankees: Closer Mariano Rivera said he will have surgery today to remove polyps from his vocal chords.