Bobby V: OK, so Jeter does practice it

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine admitted Wednesday that he was wrong to say that the Yankees never practice the backhand flip play that Derek Jeter made famous in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS.

Valentine said he was told by Red Sox bullpen coach and catching instructor Gary Tuck, who has had three stints with the Yankees, that the Yankees do practice it.

“Total mistake on my part that they don’t practice it, that’s for sure,” he said. “He (Tuck) said that when they practice it, he always got there late in practice.

“I said yesterday that the shortstop’s there being aware. But it’s hard to practice that, because why are we going to practice a bad throw? That’s not what we’re doing here. But I get it.”

Jeter said Wednesday that he’s not sure what Valentine’s trying to accomplish, but that he must be “bored.” When told of Jeter’s response, Valentine clapped his hands enthusiastically three times and said, “I need to get responses from the other team. I need to get a response from my team. That’s good.”

Valentine was a commentator for ESPN, so he knows that the most innocuous comments can take on a life of their own. Told that it was a back-page headline in New York, he said: “Nice. Wonderful. Great. This is a big story, isn’t it?”

A few minutes after discussing the matter in a scrum of media members, Valentine made it a point to clarify his respect for Jeter.

“I want it on record that I love Derek Jeter as a player,” Valentine told ESPNBoston.com. “It was not a slight towards him. I love him as a guy, too.”

* Looking for an edge: Outfielder Carl Crawford isn’t working more on his bunting simply because he’s limited in his ability to swing fully after wrist surgery in January.

“It’s something he wants to do,” Valentine said. “He thinks it will open up the field for him a little more, and I’m sure it would. He’s not swinging as much. He kind of overdid it a little yesterday. I think he’s a little sore, actually. He did two rounds of bunting, from what I gathered. If he practices a mechanic, I think he’ll be good.”

Valentine said he has not yet had a conversation with Crawford about his spot in the batting order.

* Overrated: Baseball Prospectus once opined that a manager could be worth two to three wins a season, but Valentine isn’t buying it.

“None,” he said. “Most managers can only lose games. They can never win a game.”

* Playing Sherlock Holmes: The Red Sox have gotten off to a slow start the past two seasons, including losing 10 of the first 12 games last year, setting off a firestorm of concern.

Is there any way to predict how a team will do coming out of spring training?

“I think sometimes it’s random,” Valentine said. “Sometimes it’s health. Sometimes it’s competition. (We have) pretty tough competition coming out of the chute this year, I’ll guarantee you that. Sometimes it’s weather. I don’t know.

“I’ve seen guys and teams hot as a firecracker out of spring and start off slow. And then just the opposite.”

* A look at the “B” game: Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves will headline a pitching staff that faces the Twins in a “B’’ game Thursday at 1:05 p.m. at Hammond Stadium. Each of the pitchers -- Bard, Aceves, Clayton Mortensen, Jesse Carlson, Tony Pena Jr., Alex Wilson, Will Inman and Justin Thomas -- will go an inning, Valentine said.

His goal is for them to stay healthy and throw strikes.

“You’re probably going to see them do the stuff you’ve seen here,” he said. “You’ll probably see a pitchout once in a while, a pickoff that wouldn’t normally be done. But you’ll see them try to take what we’re doing here into a semi-competitive situation. This is like minor surgery. It’s only a ‘B’ game for those who aren’t playing in it.”

* Lefty-righty: Valentine said he doesn’t have a specific idea of how he wants to compose the bullpen.

“I like pitchers who work the best together and give us the best opportunity to get through lineups,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of right-handers that were better at getting out left-handers than left-handers were, so it’s not a preference either way. I have seen bullpens with all right-handers. I’ve never seen a bullpen with all left-handers. Interesting.

“In an ideal world, I’d like to have two guys in the middle who can get each side of the plate out, so you’re not neutralized by the other team’s lineup. Or minimized.”