FORT MYERS, Fla. – Boston Red Sox Manager John Farrell addressed his full team for the first time Friday and it went about as expected.
On an optimistic day at JetBlue Park, the team’s new manager spoke to his staff and players for nearly an hour about moving past last season’s last-place finish and the rash of issues that left the Red Sox at 69-93.
The Farrell era is off and running, and time is of the essence.
“Everything has a purpose,” he said. “I don’t want to say there’s a sense of urgency but every day in spring training because of our current situation — new staff, a number of new players — we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.”
The Red Sox open the Grapefruit League season Feb. 23 against Tampa Bay.
“There’s a lot to mention,” said Farrell, who replaced Bobby Valentine and is the third Boston manager in three years. “More than anything, a lot of it was introductory for a number of new players, new people they’re coming in contact with. They were able to hear from ownership, from (General Manager) Ben (Cherington), from myself. Pretty typical, I would think, for an opening of spring training.”
Farrell was Boston’s pitching coach from 2007-10 before leaving to manage the Blue Jays for two seasons.
“More than anything, that first conversation, first talk is a way to set the tone, which I think was clear,” he said. “But the thing we want to emphasize is that it’s a matter of what we do on the field and not what we’re talking about. We’re hopeful that our actions speak certainly more volume than our words.”
The actions also started Friday as full-squad workouts began. And clearly the Red Sox, with their spring mannerisms and intensity, want this culture change to start here, then carry over to Boston when they arrive home.
Jonny Gomes is one of the new players, signed to a two-year, $10 million contract to play left field. But he also was brought in to help change the negative vibe that permeated the clubhouse. He was impressed by the team’s first meeting.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “I’ve been on a few teams. To see how the goals are set here and how everything is demanded to be ran. One of the first priorities here is to be professional. Says a lot about the organization and the players inside here. So we do that, be professional, respect the game, put some numbers up, I think we’ll be all right.”
“Be professional” is one of the few rules Farrell has.
“It’s a simple rule,” Gomes said. “(But) it’s not always that simple for people to follow it. If it was that simple, I don’t think it would be a rule. But it’s not kids in here. It’s grown men, people with families, people who have been in the game for a while. But from the success I’ve had, and the winning teams I’ve (been on), that is definitely a motto that needs to be followed.”
Will Middlebrooks was a rookie with the Red Sox in 2012. His season was cut short by a fractured right wrist suffered when he was hit by a pitch Aug. 10. But he was around to witness the chaos and is eager to put it behind him.
“It was great, very positive,” he said of the meeting. “I think everyone came out of it very happy and ready to go. I think everyone’s got a little chip on their shoulder right now, too. We’re kind of here to prove the world wrong.”
In 2007, Farrell’s first year as pitching coach, the team won its second World Series title of the decade. Farrell, who said the team’s mistakes were addressed with Cherington during the interview process, wants to get Boston back to that elite level quickly.
“To a man in that room, everyone associates the name ‘Red Sox’ with winning,” he said. “And that came out in conversation throughout the offseason. There’s been an eagerness to get back down here and get started and rewrite that script.”
The Red Sox, stumbling to the finish line, lost the final eight games of last season.