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.