February 12, 2013

What disaster? Red Sox ready to turn page in 2013

New manager John Farrell hopes to hit a home run with a team similar to the one that Bobby Valentine struck out with last season.

The Associated Press

FORT MYERS, Fla.  — A new Boston manager opened up Red Sox spring training with a smile on his face, and began the festivities with talk of changing the culture and turning the page.

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The truck full of Boston Red Sox baseball gear departs Fenway Park in Boston for Spring Training in Florida on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. Red Sox fans turned out for 'Truck Day' at Fenway, the day the team sends off its equipment to Florida in preparation for spring training. Pitchers and catchers formally report to spring training a week from today but already, some players have been working out in Fort Myers. (AP Photo/The Boston Herald, Angela Rowlings)

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Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks greets fans outside Fenway Park on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, in Boston. Red Sox fans turned out for 'Truck Day' at Fenway, the day the team sends off its equipment to Florida in preparation for spring training. Pitchers and catchers formally report to spring training a week from today but already, some players have been working out in Fort Myers. (AP Photo/The Boston Herald, Angela Rowlings)

Sound familiar?

New manager John Farrell gets his chance this season, an at-bat that Bobby Valentine struck out with last season. Farrell met the media on Tuesday at JetBlue Park — the same day pitchers and catchers reported — and spoke about new beginnings and a new era in Red Sox baseball after the franchise missed the postseason for the third straight season last year.

"Certainly we can't wipe away what's taken place," said Farrell, who is the third Boston manager in three years, joining Valentine and Terry Francona. "It's important that we acknowledge it. But as I've talked to guys throughout the offseason, what we do going forward is where the focus has to be. Just by virtue of nine new players on a 25-man roster is going to have some natural tendency to change that."

The Red Sox, under first-year general manager Ben Cherington and Valentine, stumbled to a 69-93 finish last season. There was controversy in the clubhouse, there were several trades to rid the club of veteran payroll, and there were eight straight losses to finish the season.

"The most important thing is that we earn the trust of one another inside the clubhouse first," Farrell said. "And going from there is the style of play that people can identify with this group as a team, and (be) confident that the makeup of the group initially will put ourselves in a position to do that."

Of course, Day 1 wasn't without news. A year after injuries ripped through the club, right-hander Clay Buchholz suffered a right hamstring strain and is considered day to day.

But pitchers and catchers weren't the only players working out. A determined David Ortiz, eager to rid himself of the nightmare that was 2012, was among the early arrivals.

"To be honest with you I ran out of patience last year. And I'm a player. So I can imagine where the fans were at," Ortiz, a designated hitter, said. "We definitely need to come back and play way better than we did last year."

Many of the new veterans are regarded throughout baseball as high-character players. That's something that should help the team's clubhouse culture which started to sour in the historically disastrous finish to 2011, when the Red Sox went 7-20 in the final month to miss the playoffs, essentially ending Francona's tenure.

"I think it's very important because — in addition to the talent that was needed and brought in — Ben and his staff (considered) the makeup of the individual (and the) team environment (as parts of the) process of changing," Farrell said. "So, when we sought the person inside the player, these were clear targets of ours."

But of all the offseason acquisitions, Farrell will likely have the biggest impact. A former Boston pitching coach from 2007-2010 who left to manage the Blue Jays for two seasons, he needs to undo the memories of Valentine, who often clashed with his players and the front office staff.

Ortiz was one of Valentine's biggest supporters last season. But in the offseason, Valentine said in an interview he thought Ortiz, who missed 35 games with a right Achilles strain, quit on the team.

(Continued on page 2)

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