Bobby V. gets first look at pitchers

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox pitchers began to throw live batting practice on Thursday. This drill is beneficial for the pitchers, but batters absolutely hate to participate.

Either way, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine paid close attention to the sessions, especially to Jon Lester, Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves and Andrew Bailey.

“The first day of live BP to hitters is always fun,” Valentine said. “There’s a little extra adrenaline when guys get up on the bump. You get to see pitchers outside of a bullpen and that’s a step in the right direction.”

Here’s what Valentine had to say about each pitcher:

On Lester: “Had really nice downward plane. He was keeping the ball down and had good control.”

On Bard: “Showed that changeup a few times and his breaking ball a few times. He had his two-seamer going well. He looked healthy and was throwing the ball very nicely.”

On Aceves: “Was in complete control of most of his pitches, enjoying his stuff as he went out.”

On Aceves as starter or reliever: “He can do either or. We’ll see how that plays out in the spring. We’ll see how his health plays out. He was very healthy last year and he looks in great shape right now. He's a very determined pitcher.”

On Bailey: “Seeing Andrew Bailey for the first time in the middle of the diamond in a Red Sox uniform was great to see. I thought his curveball and his cutters were good. He is right where he wants to be this time of spring.


Valentine likes to stand in the box when pitchers are throwing either bullpen sessions or live BP. He likes to see the angles of the different pitches. He admitted that he’s been hit a few times over the years.


When Valentine was managing in Japan, Nolan Ryan visited for the first time. It was obviously a big deal that the Hall of Fame pitcher was there, and he was asked to throw out a ceremonial first pitch, which in Japan is a big honor. It’s a real ceremony before each game. When Ryan was told it’s a big deal and the pitch would register on the radar gun, he decided to warm up in the bullpen.

There’s also a batter standing in the box during the ceremony, so Valentine stepped in.

“He threw it 87 miles per hour,” Valentine remembers. “He was 63 years old and it was right at my head. It was supposed to be ceremonial. I have a picture signed by him and he said, ‘I’m sorry. I was distracted by the cheerleaders.’ I think his foot slipped or something.”


Earlier this week, Red Sox rehabbing pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka said he’s happy with his health after recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he’s not pleased with his mechanics. Valentine explained that Matsuzaka has been watching video between bullpen sessions. The right-hander tossed another one on Thursday.

“That’s the best bullpen session he’s had,” Valentine said. “Daisuke is trying to be himself. He had good finish to his pitches and his delivery. It was pretty good, actually, for a guy who is supposedly as far behind as he is, it was a pretty good pen.”

Matsuzaka was popping the mitt and had decent velocity during the session, too.

“I’ll probably say I was surprised,” Valentine said. “I wanted to walk away, as a matter of fact. I didn’t want to push it. Usually guys, they hit a [plateau] when they’re coming back and they regress a little. He hasn’t had any of that, yet, and I don’t want to be around if and when it happens.”

BULLPEN Xs and Os:

It’s still too early for Valentine to assign each bullpen role to specific pitchers at this point. He said: “I’ll let the talent dictate that. I don’t have a puzzle I’m trying to fit pieces into. I’m going to take the pieces and make the puzzle. So I’ll see what we have.”


Left-hander Andrew Miller is another young pitcher who has impressed Valentine. “I’ve been a little surprised by Andrew Miller,” Valentine said. “Bob McClure has approached him about some little adjustment and he’s received it well, and seems to have translated in the bullpen, and we’ll see how it goes from there.”


There are also veteran pitchers in camp such as Vincente Padilla, Aaron Cook and Carlos Silva who are trying to earn a spot on the staff. Valentine said he’s not looking for the older, more established guys to stand out early in camp.

“The more pitchers you’ve had in spring training camps, the more you realize this is not a place to impress,” Valentine said. “This isn’t the time to try to impress or make teams. They’re on a pace to get to the games, to get to the place where they’ll have their opportunities to shine.”


After a long day of workouts and meetings, Valentine put on his home white uniform and helped outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury shoot a commercial in the dugout at JetBlue Park at Fenway South. Prior to lights, camera, action, the manager was asked about Ellsbury.

“I have great expectations because he has great expectations,” Valentine said. “I’ve met him a couple of times now and I’ve been very impressed with the person. I’ve seen his statistics and have watched him on TV and I’m impressed with the player and I can’t wait to get into uniform with him.”