CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Greetings from Bright House Field, where Nomar and Boog are in the house for ESPN (watch the game here) and Phillies fans wear their love for their team in numbers that rival their New England brethren (and sisters). That's just an eyeball opinion, but if you're not wearing Utley or Howard or Rollins or Lee or Halladay or Victorino on your back, you're a fashion dinosaur around here.
The Red Sox play the on Phillies Monday afternoon for the final game of a stretch of schedule designed only to make a bus driver happy. Since last Wednesday, Red Sox players have logged 1,130 miles by bus, at least according to the mileage estimates provided in the spring training media guide.
Monday night, general manager Ben Cherington and his staff and manager Bobby Valentine and the coaches are scheduled to meet back in the Fort, when most, if not all, of the final roster decisions are expected to be made. The identity of the final two spots in the rotation will also be discussed and decisions will likely be made, though not necessarily announced. Understand this: Everyone, manager and GM alike, would like to see Daniel Bard claim one of the starting spots. What is better than developing your own talent, from a competitive and economic standpoint?
Valentine said on most days, he has communicated with Cherington "a few times'' daily. He said that in some ways, his relationship is similar to the one he had in Texas with Tom Grieve, who was already in the organization when Valentine was hired. "There was a lot of sharing he had to do to get me caught up,'' he said. What was different, he said, is that at the time they were both young. Now, of course, he's 61.
When the staff has assembled to discuss cuts, Valentine said, Cherington polls everyone for their opinions, finishing with the manager.
"I try to keep many of my opinions real close to the vest,'' Valentine said. "I don't know if anybody knows totally what I'm thinking. In between 'cut meetings,' I try to pick brains. I think I have a better idea what the coaches think about the players than they know what I think.''
Valentine said he probably has had fewer differences of opinion with Cherington than other GMs he has worked with because he's still in a learning phase with this team, he said. "I'm watching,'' he said. "For the first three weeks, I'm looking. Pieces fit into puzzle. Sometimes they don't fit.''
He dismissed the suggestion that he and Cherington are in a power struggle.
"Lazy journalism,'' he said. "It's an easy story to write, that has no validity to it. I could have written that Dec. 3.''
The manager also said he was satisfied with the roster, and did not believe the club needed any help from outside at the start of the season.
Other tidbits from Valentine's morning meeting with reporters:
* Valentine said a decision has not yet been made whether Carl Crawford (wrist) will break camp with the team.
* Here's the breakdown (in round-trip miles) of the team's travel since last Wednesday:
Wednesday: Bradenton, 176.
Friday: Sarasota, 166
Saturday: Jupiter, 276
Sunday: Dunedin, 260
Monday: Clearwater, 252.
Just to add to the pleasure-cruise factor, Friday's bus ride to Sarasota came after a home night game against the Yankees. Of course, not every player made every trip.
"The schedule has surprised me,'' Valentine said. "It's much more disjointed, rigorous than I expected. You never have your team together. If we hadn't gotten our work done the first two weeks, there would have been no chance of working things as a team. I didn't know that.''