FORT MYERS, Fla. — Bobby Valentine always expects his players to bust it. The new manager of the Boston Red Sox also wants his team to bus it this spring.
When the Red Sox play exhibitions on the road, Valentine says the players will take the team bus. It’s common around the majors for stars to drive themselves to spring training road games, mostly to get a fast start home after they’re pulled early.
“I think guys drove to the ballpark when we played away [in previous springs],” Valentine said Monday. “We’re not going to do that anymore.”
“Buses. Yeah, buses. Unless there’s an exception, someone has to pick their wife up at the airport along the way. There’s always exceptions to rules,” he said. “The manager and coaches will drive and at times there might be a player there because at times there might be a ‘B’ game that I’m going to watch and the bus leaves early.”
The Red Sox are coming off a season in which a late collapse cost them a playoff spot. Valentine has been trying to add games and innings to get enough time to evaluate everyone.
Left fielder Carl Crawford was an early arrival among the pitchers and catchers. Despite having surgery on his left wrist in January, Crawford looked fine to Valentine.
“I didn’t know he was there,” Valentine said. “I just walked around the corner, there he was, throwing the ball. It was great to see him. His health looks much better than I expected. I’m pleasantly surprised.”
Crawford had a disappointing first season with the Red Sox last year and was a target of some of Valentine’s pointed criticism as an analyst for ESPN. The manager, though, is not concerned about any lingering discomfort.
“I think it’s cleared up,” Valentine said. “And if it’s not, I don’t think it’s a big deal anyway. I think he’s ready to play baseball. He had the great look in his eye. He’s a great athlete. Looks like he’s going to have good health.”
That’s not the case, though, for all his players.
Right-handed reliever Bobby Jenks is entering the second season of a two-year, $12 million contract. He appeared in just 19 games, spanning 15 2-3 innings, last season while limited by injuries, including a pulmonary embolism. Jenks had two procedures on his back in the offseason.
“Bobby said he’d like to take it one week at a time and I’d say that that means he’s a long ways away from thinking about baseball activities,” Valentine said. “He’s really had a terrible offseason, health-wise, and so he’s a real back-burner guy. I don’t expect to see him in many baseball activities for a while, if at all this spring.”
“I would think that he would be that in-season trade that everyone would be looking for and we’d have him right here already. That’s what I’m hoping for. I would think some time into the season. Things happen differently and that’s my opinion,” he said.
Righty Aaron Cook, a non-roster invitee, will be on a slower pace than most of the other pitchers.
Righty Daisuke Matsuzaka and lefty Rich Hill are both making their way back after each underwent Tommy John surgery in June. Valentine said they are on similar recovery paths.
“I think Rich is throwing a little better,” Valentine said. “I think recovery and healing process is very similar and I think it could be a similar pace.”
Valentine does not expect either to pitch in spring training games.
After the Red Sox went 7-20 in September, there were reports that pitchers were drinking beer in the clubhouse during games.
Valentine said he had made a decision on whether or not to ban alcohol in the clubhouse, but wasn’t going to publicly announce it yet.
“I think the players should know first,” he said.
Valentine will talk to the club after the full squad reports on Saturday.
“I’ve thought about addressing the team,” he said. “I don’t know that I’m going to address any things concerning the regular season next week. But I’ve thought about it.”