Focused Farrell, Red Sox eager to turn page

A new Boston manager opened up Red Sox spring training with a
smile on his face, and began the festivities with talk of changing
the culture and turning the page.

Sound familiar?

New manager John Farrell gets his chance this season, an at-bat
that Bobby Valentine struck out with last season. Farrell met the
media on Tuesday at JetBlue Park – the same day pitchers and
catchers reported – and spoke about new beginnings and a new era in
Red Sox baseball after the franchise missed the postseason for the
third straight season last year.

”Certainly we can’t wipe away what’s taken place,” said
Farrell, who is the third Boston manager in three years, joining
Valentine and Terry Francona. ”It’s important that we acknowledge
it. But as I’ve talked to guys throughout the offseason, what we do
going forward is where the focus has to be. Just by virtue of nine
new players on a 25-man roster is going to have some natural
tendency to change that.”

The Red Sox, under first-year general manager Ben Cherington and
Valentine, stumbled to a 69-93 finish last season. There was
controversy in the clubhouse, there were several trades to rid the
club of veteran payroll, and there were eight straight losses to
finish the season.

”The most important thing is that we earn the trust of one
another inside the clubhouse first,” Farrell said. ”And going
from there is the style of play that people can identify with this
group as a team, and (be) confident that the makeup of the group
initially will put ourselves in a position to do that.”

Of course, Day 1 wasn’t without news. A year after injuries
ripped through the club, right-hander Clay Buchholz suffered a
right hamstring strain and is considered day to day.

But pitchers and catchers weren’t the only players working out.
A determined David Ortiz, eager to rid himself of the nightmare
that was 2012, was among the early arrivals.

”To be honest with you I ran out of patience last year. And I’m
a player. So I can imagine where the fans were at,” Ortiz, a
designated hitter, said. ”We definitely need to come back and play
way better than we did last year.”

Many of the new veterans are regarded throughout baseball as
high-character players. That’s something that should help the
team’s clubhouse culture which started to sour in the historically
disastrous finish to 2011, when the Red Sox went 7-20 in the final
month to miss the playoffs, essentially ending Francona’s
tenure.

”I think it’s very important because – in addition to the
talent that was needed and brought in – Ben and his staff
(considered) the makeup of the individual (and the) team
environment (as parts of the) process of changing,” Farrell said.
”So, when we sought the person inside the player, these were clear
targets of ours.”

But of all the offseason acquisitions, Farrell will likely have
the biggest impact. A former Boston pitching coach from 2007-2010
who left to manage the Blue Jays for two seasons, he needs to undo
the memories of Valentine, who often clashed with his players and
the front office staff.

Ortiz was one of Valentine’s biggest supporters last season. But
in the offseason, Valentine said in an interview he thought Ortiz,
who missed 35 games with a right Achilles strain, quit on the
team.

”A lot of players had a lot of issues with our manager last
year,” Ortiz said. ”We have a new manager, a guy that’s familiar
with the organization, a guy that we’ve pretty much grown up
around. An organization, a team, is like the human body. If the
head is right, the body is going to function right. But if the head
is messed up, then the body is going to be all over the place.

”I’m pretty sure that everyone is looking at that as a positive
move. And now it’s a like a fresh start. We’re going back to basics
with a manager like John.”

Others, however, chose to stray from the Valentine excuse.

”None,” said second baseman Dustin Pedroia, when asked how
much blame should be placed on Valentine. ”He didn’t play. It’s
the players. Bobby didn’t go out there and get any hits or make any
errors or do any of that. We lost those games. It’s on us.

”We’ve got to do everything better than we did last year.”

The Red Sox lost nine of their final 10 games last season, and
finished 26 games behind the New York Yankees, who won the American
League East.

”(Last season) was difficult. We had a tough time. We lost a
lot of games,” Pedroia said. ”So I think everybody’s motivated to
make sure that doesn’t happen again. We got in a lot of new guys. I
think a lot of guys are excited. So there’s going to be a lot of
different things going on. Everyone just has to do what they do.
Don’t try to do too much.”

One of the new players is catcher David Ross, who returns to the
Red Sox after a brief eight-game stint in Boston in 2008. Ross, who
turns 36 in March and is a veteran of 11 seasons, was the team’s
first offseason signing.

”At this point in my career, I’m not trying to put up any Hall
of Fame numbers or anything. I just want to win,” he said. ”I
feel like this place gave me the best chance. I think they were
still undecided on what they were going to do when they were
talking to me. They asked, `Do you care who you play alongside or
back up or whatever your role is?’ I said `I was going to try to be
the best teammate I can and work hard on the days I play.’

”I’m going to do the best I can to win and support whoever my
teammate is. That’s kind of how I was raised. I feel like that’s
the right thing to do.”

It’s that kind of attitude the Red Sox hope catches on.