Celtics

For Valentine, more baseball is better

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For Valentine, more baseball is better

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.''

McClellin practices with Patriots for first time since training camp

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McClellin practices with Patriots for first time since training camp

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick said it was "a possibility" on Tuesday. On Wednesday, it was a reality. 

Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin was back on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium for the first time since suffering an undisclosed injury that landed him on injured reserve before the season. 

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Belichick mentioned in a conference call this week that if McClellin was ready to practice, then practicing was an option. "If he's not ready," Belichick said at the time, "then it's not an option."

Obviously, it was an option, and the Patriots brought McClellin back as soon as possible based on the league's rules for players on injured reserve. For those who have been placed on IR, they must sit out six weeks before returning to practice. They must sit out eight weeks before playing in a game. Because the Patriots have a Week 9 bye, then McClellin's first opportunity to be in uniform would be Week 10. 

For the first time since players could be designated to return off of IR in 2012, teams are now allowed to bring back two players. 

Patriots receiver Malcolm Mitchell has also been on IR since the day of the season-opener, though he has not been spotted in the Patriots locker room recently. ESPN's Mike Reiss reported over the weekend that Mitchell (knee) isn't close to a return. 

Patriots defensive lineman Vincent Valentine (knee) is on IR as well and could be a candidate to return, but he was placed on the list two days prior to New England's Week 3 game with Houston so his timeline is different from McClellin's and Mitchell's. 

McClellin played in 17 games last season, including playoffs, and he finished the season with the second-most snaps of any Patriots linebacker behind Dont'a Hightower. McClellin has the ability to be a versatile piece for Belichick's defense, with experience both off the line and on the edge, and he has been a core special-teamer.