Red Sox

Valentine eager to get things going

601900.jpg

Valentine eager to get things going

WORCESTER -- Bobby Valentine has been on the job for two months, but now that spring training is drawing closer, the new Red Sox manager is eager to really get to work.

"I actually made out the first week's workout (recently),'' said Valentine Wednesday night, appearing at Worcester Technical High School where the Red Sox hosted a 2012 Town Hall with fans. "We're making sure that the new program being sent out to the players is palatable . . . But it will be a work in progress, to be sure. This will be new, different, exciting.''

For the past few weeks, Valentine has been reading scouting reports.

"I'm tired of reading,'' joked Valentine. "I've read too much. My eyes are tired. I'd like to get out in the sun and see the players."

Valentine has spoken with a number of players in recent weeks, some of whom are eager to get going on the 2012 season.

"I've talked to a few who are definitely going to be there early,'' said Valentine. "A lot of guys will show up before the mandatory reporting dates. We'll start with a volunteer session on Feb. 16 and we'll be off and running.''

Valentine has heard from new closer Andrew Bailey and starter Jon Lester -- among others -- who are set to be in Fort Myers in the next week or so.

Drellich: Every move Red Sox, Yankees make has new meaning

Drellich: Every move Red Sox, Yankees make has new meaning

The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry has a newfound sense of urgency. A feeling that every move counts and will count, be it at the trade deadline in a month and a half, or when Alex Cora determines his second baseman on a nightly basis.

It's not because these franchises hate each other, because of their steep history. It's because they actually have to best the other, or suffer an unwelcome consequence.

Unlike the early 2000s, both teams cannot enter the playoffs on equal footing. A second-place finish in the American League East will sting. Participating in the Wild Card game for the right to move on to the five-game Division Series will be a stomach-turning experience for one of these two teams.

The upshot presently: even as the Sox and Yanks play teams that are uninspiring, and there are plenty such clubs, there is reason for fans and players alike to stay intently focused. (In the midst of a 162-game season, there will be lapses for everyone.) There is reason to care, in fact, if the ideal lineup or pinch-hit decision is made by Alex Cora, at every juncture. There is reason to care about whether Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has sufficiently helped rebuild the farm system, because it’s a matter of depth options now and via trade.

The Sox can have the best record in the majors in June, or be one win off the pace-setters, and the smallest of details will still matter. “They’re great,” doesn’t cut it. “Is this move optimal to beat the Yankees, the team that can relegate the Sox to a one-game playoff scenario?” is the question to be answered

As trade season arrives, the concept of the marginal win is out the window for both clubs. Or it should be. In divisions where one team is clearly superior, the need to add by trade isn’t always so clear. What’s the difference between 93 wins and 95 wins if you’re heading to the Division Series either way? Is the slight upgrade worth whatever you’re giving up?

The playoffs are always a crapshoot. But the Sox and Yanks are playing to avoid the biggest crapshoot of all in the Wild Card.

Passion between fan bases in the regular season wasn’t lacking 15 years ago. It was greater, obviously. But for different reasons. Second place in the division was usually a matter of bragging rights, rather than actual reward or worthiness. 

We’ve returned to a world where the Sox and Yanks are clearly better than virtually everyone. Were the rest of the AL stronger this year, the Wild Card could be a blessing for the Sox or the Yanks — a chance to make a postseason run that did not previously exist when there were four playoff teams instead of five. 

But the present landscape shows three powerhouses, and two of them happen to be classic rivals in the East. What they do before October means more now than it used to.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

If Michael Porter Jr. falls in the NBA Draft, the Celtics should consider trading up for him

If Michael Porter Jr. falls in the NBA Draft, the Celtics should consider trading up for him

BOSTON – When it comes to the NBA draft, it’s not unusual for a player pegged as a can’t-miss prospect to inexplicably dip on the eve of the draft.

One of the great examples of this was Paul Pierce, considered by most coming out of Kansas as a top-5 talent in 1998 who was on the board when it was time for the Celtics to select at No. 10.

Boston picked Pierce who went on to have a Hall of a Fame-worthy career that includes an NBA title in 2008 and his jersey number 34 being retired by the franchise.

In conversations with multiple league executives and scouts, the player they view as most likely to take a slight draft-night tumble is Michael Porter Jr. who missed most of his freshman season with Missouri after lower back surgery.

Porter Jr. won’t be considered a draft-day tumble unless he’s around when the New York Knicks are on the clock at No. 9.

The Knicks have had a (not so) quiet bromance for Terry Rozier III even before he blew up in the postseason. Marcus Smart, a restricted free agent, is on their radar as a potential target this summer as well.

Putting together a package involving Rozier would make re-signing Smart a more sensible move for the Celtics. And if Rozier became the central trade piece in acquiring the 6-11 Porter Jr., that too would make a lot of sense for the Celtics going forward in their quest to build a roster that has the kind of high-quality, position-less versatility needed to compete and potentially defeat the Golden State Warriors in both the short- and long-term.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE