TAMPA, Fla. — Bobby Valentine smiled his big, wide smile, surrounded by media, talking about the Red Sox and the Yankees.

Baseball’s hottest rivalry gets a new provocateur this year.

“The intensity will be interesting. Looking forward to it? Who knows?” he said.

Valentine stood in the third- base dugout at Steinbrenner Field before Tuesday night’s exhibition game between his Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, the first of two meaningless spring training meetings that serve as an appetizer for the 18 bitter, tense and often lengthy games during the regular season.

Left hand in his pants pocket, right hand twirling sunglasses, he spoke of succeeding Terry Francona after Boston’s September collapse, of managing against the Yankees during his days with the Mets, of watching the teams meet during his time as a television analyst.

“It will be more than I expect and probably some of what I felt from the outside,” he said. “I’ve been in both Joe Girardi’s office and Tito’s office during the rivalry. I’ve seen their faces. I’ve heard their voices, so I get that. I’ve seen the fans. I’ve read the newspapers. I’ve heard the talk shows and the TV casts, and I’m looking forward to it.”

A day after his wave heard round spring training – Valentine bid “goodbye” to Ozzie Guillen after the Miami manager was ejected, prompting Guillen to say he would have responded with a profanity had he seen it – Valentine was his eloquent, charming, playful self. The teams meet again March 22 at Fort Myers, then play for real April 20 at Boston.

“Baseball at its finest,” Valentine said. “I remember the Subway Series, when the commissioner came in and he said this is the showcase of showcases; this is New York against New York playing baseball on our finest stage. And I think of that every time the Yankees and the Red Sox play. So it’s an honor.”

Valentine and Girardi played down their roles, emphasizing the players.

“When Yogi played, or it moved on to Mickey, or when I played with Bernie, it’s always been a great rivalry,” Girardi said.

Yogi Berra and Bernie Williams have been at spring training, and fans still wear Mickey Mantle’s No. 7 jersey, so there is a constant sense of history in Yankees camp. Valentine, too, is conscious of the import of games between the teams, even realizing the strain every four-hour-plus night placed upon Francona, Girardi and former Yankees manager Joe Torre.

“I remember Joe complaining about it,” Valentine said, “the first Joe, Joe I. And Joe II also I’ve heard has complained, so it’s probably something that wears on you. It’s got to be on you. You play 162 games and these 18 they say are one-plus – 162 wears everyone out, so now you have one-plus to add to it.”

Every matchup is built into a potential huge momentum swing. The managers try to insulate their players from the hype.

“I understand the mentality that it is just one game in the standings. I understand that totally and I think that attitude filters down and that has to be my attitude,” Valentine said.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia already has noticed the changes from the Francona years. “We’ve been doing a lot more bunting, a little more running, some more hit and runs,” he said.

And then there is the switch in style with Bobby V. “He talks a lot during the game,” the 2008 AL MVP said. “Talking what they’re playing out defensively, watching every pitch, kind of thinking the game out loud. He’s very intelligent, the way he thinks situations.”


RED SOX 1, YANKEES 0: Felix Doubront threw four shutout innings in Boston’s win at Tampa, Fla.

Ivan Nova allowed two hits over four scoreless innings for New York. Nova, a 16-game winner in his rookie season last year, had struggled in his two previous spring training starts.

Pedro Ciriaco scored when he singled off David Phelps, the ball skipped past right fielder Zoilo Almonte for an error and second baseman David Adams threw wildly home for another error.