BOSTON -- With less than a month before the official reporting date for spring training, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine is happy with the way his first offseason on the job in Boston has gone.
“It’s almost the way I would hope it could have been drawn up,” Valentine said Thursday night while attending a charity event hosted by Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis.
Valentine said it wouldn’t be a “cold plunge” when the staff and players arrive at the club’s new spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., in a few weeks. The newest manager has worked at an exhaustive pace since being named to the post. He’s traveled this country and others in an attempt to meet face to face with all the players, but he admitted on Thursday that there are still four or five players that he hasn’t talked with personally. He said he’s left a note, email, voicemail or text message with everyone on the roster.
Because there have been so many changes to the organization’s management, coaching and medical staffs, along with a different roster, Valentine believes there will be plenty of challenges for the Red Sox in 2011.
“The American League seems to be as strong as it's ever been,” he said. “Seeing what the teams in our division have done, seeing what the teams outside our division have done, it almost seems like it’s getting to be a senior and a junior league. This is going to be a challenging year for any team to be the champions of the American League.”
Of course, pitching is what wins in the American League, and the Red Sox are still shopping for a starting pitcher. Boston has reportedly made offers to starters Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt recently. When asked what he thought of the club's potential to add another arm, Valentine seemed content with the current staff.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I think we have a lot of numbers right now. If all the reports are right and the three starting pitchers (Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz) we have penciled in at this time are healthy and ready to go, I think we have plenty right now to make a very good staff. To add another guy, I think it adds to my challenges of spring training.”
In fact, Valentine wants to add a couple of split-squad games to the team’s schedule in the first 13 days of the exhibition season in order to get enough innings in for the pitching staff before March 15 rolls around.
“Another pitcher would be, I guess OK,” added Valentine. “It’s not at the top of my wish list.”
The Red Sox have added Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney to the outfield mix. With the departure of closer Jonathan Papelbon, Boston acquired closer Andrew Bailey from Oakland. Other additions include infielder Nick Punto, catcher Kelly Shoppach and reliever Mark Melancon.
“I never look at anything in a vacuum. I always look at how things work together,” Valentine said. “It’s not an individual thing, but I think each individual position needs to be filled with a quality person at the major league level, in particular on our team with the competition that we’re going to be facing.”