Cherington: Red Sox eager for 2012 to start
After his first winter as general manager of the Boston Red Sox, Ben Cherington can't wait until spring training so he can finally see how things are working out.
And his players are eager to get going for their own reasons.
''I'm really looking forward to getting down there and seeing this in action,'' Cherington said Thursday night before the annual dinner of the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. ''I truly believe our players are ready to put last year behind them. Spring training is the first chance to do that.''
More than 600 people attended the dinner at a downtown Boston hotel where designated hitter David Ortiz was presented with the Roberto Clemente Award as well as the Tim Wakefield Award for community service by a Red Sox player. Retired St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was given the organization's most prestigious honor, the Judge Emil Fuchs Award for long and meritorious service to baseball, named for the former owner of the Boston Braves.
Others honored included Chicago Cubs outfielder Tony Campana, who overcame Hodgkin's lymphoma, as the Tony Conigliaro Award winner for dealing with adversity.
Jacoby Ellsbury was chosen as the Red Sox MVP after a year in which he finished second in the AL MVP voting. One year after playing in just 18 games because of injuries, Ellsbury batted .321 with 32 homers and 105 RBIs - all career highs - and had 39 stolen bases.
He also batted .358 with eight homers and 21 RBIs in September, one of the few bright spots for the Red Sox as they went 7-20 down the stretch to finish one game behind Tampa Bay in the AL wild-card race.
''I'm really looking forward to being with the guys,'' Boston manager Bobby Valentine said, turning to Ortiz and saying: ''That smile is part of any culture. So I want to see that smile.''
Alluding to the reports of pitchers drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games, Valentine said, ''Josh Beckett's presence has got to be the right presence, and he assures me that it is.''
''One of my jobs is to get the guys to believe. Not to believe in me,'' Valentine said. ''But to believe that they deserve and they're ready to win a championship.''
Other honors included:
-Associated Press sports writer Howard Ulman with the Dave O'Hara Award for BBWAA service.
-Fenway Park architect Janet Marie Smith for her work on the ballpark's renovations, in recognition of its 100th anniversary.
-Catcher Ryan Lavarnway as Red Sox minor league player of the year.
-Traded outfielder Josh Reddick with the Harry Agganis Award as Red Sox rookie of the year.
-Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon as manager of the year.
-Texas general manager Jon Daniels as major league executive of the year.
-Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, with the Tommy McCarthy Good Guy Award.
Cherington also declined to comment on reports that Commissioner Bud Selig had taken over the drawn-out talks for compensation from the Cubs for former general manager Theo Epstein. Epstein left to take over as president of baseball operations in Chicago, but the teams never settled on what the Red Sox would get for letting him out of his contract with one year left.
''We'd like to find a resolution. We may need help to do that,'' Cherington said, adding he hopes it will be done before spring training.
The other big change for the Red Sox this offseason was the loss of closer Jonathan Papelbon, who signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Red Sox obtained former Oakland closer Andrew Bailey in a trade for Reddick.
Ortiz is headed to arbitration, unless the sides can work out a deal before the hearing.
''We lost a closer; we replaced a closer. The best DH in the game: That guy's back,'' Cherington said. ''We just don't feel like we needed wholesale changes.''
Also Thursday, the Red Sox announced a restructuring of their medical staff.
Rick Jameyson, who spent 20 years as a trainer in the Indians organization, joined the Red Sox as head athletic trainer. Pat Sandora, who had been the organization's minor league strength and conditioning coach, has been hired in the same role in Boston.
Larry Ronan will continue as the team internist and Peter Asnis has been promoted to head team orthopedist.
''We hope that the staff gives the players everything they need and does it in a way that shows the players'' that the staff has their best interests at heart, Cherington said, ''and ultimately keep them on the field more.''
Cherington stressed that he wasn't blaming the old crew for the injuries and conditioning that helped doom the team down the stretch.
''There were areas of the players' individual conditioning we thought could improve over 2011,'' he said. ''Ultimately, it falls back to the players to take care of themselves.''