If Disney World is the happiest place on earth, then Boston Red Sox camp has been a narrow runner-up this spring.
One year removed from a 93-loss season under manager Bobby Valentine, the Red Sox are experiencing a quiet camp under new skipper John Farrell. In fact, team president Larry Lucchino recently referred to “good vibrations” emanating from JetBlue Park, but not even The Beach Boys could do justice to the mood.
“Everyone’s positive,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia told the Boston Herald, “and when you’re around people that are positive, you want to go out there and push yourself and do all you can do to not let them down.”
The spring training harmony doesn’t guarantee the Red Sox will have a winning season, but it’s also a stark contrast to a year ago. Looking back, several players admitted to the Herald that they didn’t trust Valentine, believing that he had a hidden agenda. Valentine’s look-at-me personality proved irritating and divisive, and his inability to communicate clearly left players guessing about how they were regarded.
“Even when camp broke, some guys were in positions that they weren’t quite comfortable with,” reliever Daniel Bard told the newspaper. “Nothing felt really set in stone. It felt like we were just winging it to start the season. I don’t think we’ll have that feeling as much this year.”
Farrell is a bear of a man, 6-foot-4 with broad shoulders, big hands, a square jaw and a steady gaze. He speaks in thoughtful run-on sentences, not pithy sound bites, and he’s a straight talker, so direct that right-hander Clay Buchholz cops to having once been scared of him.
But Farrell also is the anti-Valentine, both in words and deeds. He’s direct and low-key, and he has placed an emphasis on substance rather than style.
Farrell held a 50-minute team meeting Feb. 15 before the first full-squad workout. He stressed two rules: be on time and be professional. In return, several players said Farrell pledged to be honest.
“Coming in last year, we didn’t know Bobby. We only heard stories,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “You don’t want to judge someone before you meet him, but sometimes it was tough to approach him. It was tough to talk to him about things. That was a little different for guys.
“A lot of guys know Farrell, and even if you don’t, he’s real approachable. He’s a guy that you can sit and talk to and have normal conversation and not feel anything other than what it was. He lets you know where you stand, too. It’s a great atmosphere here, and that’s what John brings.”
RED SOX NOTEBOOK: Mike Carp was acquired by the Red Sox from the Seatle Mariners on Wednesday, and he has a strong chance to make the Boston roster as a backup left fielder/first baseman.
The Red Sox picked up Carp for cash or a player to be named, one week after the 26-year-old had been designated for assignment by Seattle.
Carp is a .255 hitter with a .327 on-base percentage and 18 homers in 608 plate appearances in the majors, all with the Mariners. He struggled last season, batting.213 with a .312 OBP and five homers in 164 at-bats, likely as a result of shoulder and groin injuries. However, he also is only two years removed from a 12-homer season in part-time duty with Seattle.
Carp could fill a need for the Red Sox as a lefty-hitting alternative to left fielder Jonny Gomes and first baseman Mike Napoli. He will compete for a roster spot with first baseman Lyle Overbay, who has no major league experience as an outfielder. Also, Carp can’t be sent to the minors without being exposed to waivers, which may give him a leg up on Overbay.
“We’ve been able to add a talented player, someone we’ve had conversations about throughout the course of the offseason,” manager John Farrell said. “Finally he became available, another left-handed hitter that has that versatility on the defensive side. It increases the competition, particularly at first and left field.”
The Red Sox placed outfielder Ryan Kalish (right shoulder surgery) on the 60-day disabled list to clear space in the 40-man roster for Carp.