FORT MYERS, Fla. – New Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine has spent much of spring training stressing to his pitchers the importance of fielding.

He wants it in their heads at all times.

So two of the six television screens in the new clubhouse have been dedicated to baseball highlights, including defensive plays by pitchers, from fielding bunts, grounders and comebackers, to holding runners on at first. And Jim Kaat, one of the best fielding pitchers in the modern era, was a guest in camp earlier this week.

“I’d like to have our pitching defense improve,” Valentine said. “We were last in a lot of categories. We weren’t really good at a lot of stuff other than pitching the ball. Hopefully we can improve on that. Might win a game or two.”

His pitchers have noticed.

“Well, they made it a big point to bring that up,” right-hander Clay Buchholz said. “Last year we were pretty much the bottom of every category. I think defense wins championships because if you don’t have the guys behind you making great plays and you not being able to field your position, that’s giving away runners and giving away runs when you don’t have to. It’s a big key to our success this year.”

Being successful without a strong defense will be difficult. Especially with some question marks at the back of the rotation and the bottom of the lineup.

“I think it’s pretty tough,” right-hander Daniel Bard said. “You don’t want to have shortcomings on defense that you have to make up for with great pitching or great hitting. We do have those two things (but) defense is the easiest thing to improve on as a baseball player.

“So there’s no reason not to work on it.”

One of Valentine’s biggest targets is on the bases. He would like to see pitchers do a better job controlling the running game.

“Statistically, it would be fair to say we were the worst in our division, 14th in baseball and eighth in the American League,” Valentine said. “It depends on how you determine that.”

He’s not far off. Red Sox pitchers allowed 156 stolen bases last season, more than any other team. Their caught-stealing percentage (24) was tied for fourth-worst in baseball.

Valentine mentioned two left-handers — reliever Franklin Morales and starter Jon Lester — as being somewhat adept at holding runners. They had four pickoffs each.

But against right-hander Josh Beckett, opposing base stealers were 31 of 34 despite his 83 throws to first base. But Valentine won’t single anyone out. Rather, he would like to see his staff improve as a whole.

“I would say it could be worked on,” he said. “It’s part of this program, spring training.”

It better be, especially considering the AL East competition. Tampa Bay led the league with 155 stolen bases last season and Toronto was sixth (131).

“There are a couple of other teams who can advance 90 (feet),” he said. “I’m all with guys (who say), ‘Hey, you don’t get any points for getting to second. I’m getting the hitter out.’ I get that.”

Still, it would be nice to stop them in their tracks.

“It’s a big part of the game, especially with all the fast guys on teams nowadays,” Buchholz said. “They’re going to steal their bags but if you can keep them close, they might not get a good enough jump to go first to third, rather than just letting them take second base.

“So there’s a lot of small things in the game that you can do to hold the runners. And we’ve got to perfect those.”

The Boston philosophy in recent seasons has been to focus on the batter. The Red Sox often chose to forego the slide step for some pitchers who could become distracted by a runner at first base, which could result in diminished concentration or diminished quality of pitches. The idea is not to let that happen.

RYAN KALISH, an outfielder, threw for the first time this spring.

Kalish, who had offseason surgeries on his neck and left shoulder that will leave him unavailable until June, made about 30 throws from about 45 feet as the recovery process continues.