FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This was a day for sweat and swagger, routine and ruminations, pacing and possibilities.
Fitting, then, that before the morning would end on the first Red Sox workout of 2010, a warm sun Saturday would chase away any lingering whispers of winter.
This was a day set aside for pitchers and catchers, but even as the gates opened for the first time to snowbirds and transplanted retirees eager for a glimpse of their team -- the head count for the day was 905 fans -- other familiar faces came striding into the clubhouse.
"You know what I'm going to do this year? Bat fifth and DH," cracked Dustin Pedroia. "I'm waiting to tell Papi that second base is all his.''
Forget all that talk about the Sox offense being less than it was, said Pedroia, who hasn't added a pound nor lost an ounce of presence.
"Look at [Marco] Scutaro, he scored over 100 runs last year,'' Pedroia said. "He was a pain in the butt. [Mike] Cameron, he's going to hit a ton of home runs at Fenway.
"And me, I'm going to have at least 10 more hits this year, because that's about how many [Adrian] Beltre took away from me.''
A few cubicles down, a muscular Jacoby Ellsbury, who maintained his usual off-season routine of two-a-day workouts, was quickly surrounded by reporters eager to hear his thoughts about shifting from center to left field, a position he last played with any regularity in 2007, when he filled in for a hamstring-challenged Manny (remember him?) Ramirez.
If anyone expected to sniff the makings of a controversy, forget it. Ellsbury was so positive in his endorsement of the move, it wouldn't have been surprising to hear him say he was the one who suggested it.
"Cameron never played left, I've played left,'' Ellsbury said. "This worked out better for the team. They asked me how I felt. As long as it helps the team, I told them I'd be fine with it.''
But before the Boy Scouts could arrive with a good citizenship badge, someone else broke through the circle of reporters.
"Hey, ma-a-a-n,'' said Victor Martinez, adopting the pitch of a man with permanently clogged nasal passages. "How's it going, m-a-a-n.''
"Hey, m-a-a-a-n,'' Ellsbury parroted back, while embracing a teammate who was with Cleveland at this time last year. "Good to see you, m-a-a-n.''
Ryan Kalish is a 21-year-old rookie from New Jersey. Remember the name. This may be his first big-league camp, but Kalish, one of several promising outfielders in the Sox system, gives off the vibe of someone on a collision course with bigger things.
"It's real exciting to be here -- I can't believe I'm in this row,'' Kalish said as he observed the scene around him.
"This is my life dream. It's my fifth year, and I've had some ups and downs, been hurt a little bit, but now you just want to seize the moment.''
For the Red Sox hopefuls, this was the place to be, where Edison Avenue dead-ends at the minor-league facility bordering the canals from which a gator or two has been known to rouse himself for a stroll across the fields.
At one point Saturday morning, Francona popped up on the diamond where the slick-handed Cuban shortstop Jose Iglesias was taking ground balls, and engaged him in a 20-minute conversation, a measure of the regard the Sox already have for him.
"A very impressive young man,'' Francona said.
Read Gordon Edes' full story HERE.