FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Spring training doesn't officially get underway until Sunday, when pitchers and catchers are expected to report. But already, new manager Bobby Valentine is concerned about how much work there is to do and how little time there is to accomplish it all.
To that end, Valentine is trying to arrange for additional split-squad games and find more opportunities to evaluate all the players on hand.
"I'd like to play other teams rather than intrasquad games," said Valentine. "I'd like to get two more games before the 15th of March.
"I'd like to add a couple of innings to the college games against BC and Northeastern, which are both scheduled for seven innings. That would help, for whatever that's worth . . . We could get another four innings there. A lot of people don't think that's much, but that's a lot. You're talking about four pitchers who pitch an inning of competition that we get to see out of the chute.
"New pitching coach Bob McClure hasn't seen these guys, either. The more we see them, the easier it is for us to know what we have.''
For Valentine, the more games, the better.
"People got away from that 10 a.m. game, the 'B' game,'' he said. "It sounds like it's because there are a lot of lazy people in the game to me. Everyone says 33 days of spring training is too long. I think that's baloney. To get guys really ready, I think everybody is working right to the deadline, to get a starter to 30 innings -- and five of them.''
Position players complain that spring training is as long as it is because the pitchers need that much time to build up arm strength. But he believes everyone would benefit from more preparation.
"Sixty percent of the players get off to slow starts,'' Valentine said, "and they blame it on the fact that either it's cold or they didn't get enough practice.
"You're always ready to play. You get mentally ready to play really quickly. But it's hard to keep, in this environment, what you need for what you're really going to be doing. Because spring training isn't the real world. But you do need proper preparation.''