Spring Swing: Red Sox like having Big Papi, Li’l Papi around

David Brown
Big League Stew

FORT MYERS, Fla. — After what happened down the stretch in 2011 (think fried chicken, beer and September's won-loss record), there's no question the Boston Red Sox are taking an earnest and even serious approach in spring training. But not too serious. A son of slugger David Ortiz — 6-year-old D'Angelo — has been hanging around Big Papi and mirroring his workouts, and he has been pretty cute about it, too.

Bringing your kid to work is one of the privileges of being David Ortiz, but the younger Ortiz is a big hit at camp among teammates and fans — some of whom ask for his autograph. NESN and Boston.com even did a video feature recently on D'Angelo, in which he explains why he's such a big Adrian Gonzalez fan, how many positions he plays on his Little League team, and why Big Papi will never switch-hit like Li'l Papi does.

Fun, sure, but the Red Sox also got to work Thursday at their new spring training facility called JetBlue Park. As Yahoo! Sports' own Jeff Passan wrote, new manager Bobby Valentine seemed like he was in two or three places at once as he scurried from field to field and checked on Boston's early progress.

Valentine said he was happy to see new closer Andrew Bailey throw with the Red Sox for the first time outside of a bullpen.

"His curveball and his cutters were just where he wants them to be this time of spring," Valentine said.

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Earlier in camp, left-hander Jon Lester said he and others have learned from the mistakes of 2011 that contributed to the Red Sox's collapse.

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Daisuke Matsuzaka turned in one of the best bullpen sessions of the day. He had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in June but seems to be ahead of schedule in rehabbing the injury. He also dyed his hair orange.

Color Valentine impressed.

"That's the best bullpen session he's had," Valentine said. "He and [coach] Randy Niemann have done a little video work, they've done a little talking. Dice is just trying to be himself. He had good finish to his pitches in his delivery. It was pretty good, actually, for a guy who's supposedly as far behind as he is, that was a pretty good pen."

Actually, Valentine wondered if the session was almost too good to be true.

"I wanted to walk away, as a matter of fact," Valentine said. "Because I didn't want to push it. Usually, guys hit a thing when they're coming back. They regress a little. He hasn't had any of that yet and I don't want to be around if and when it happens. Don't want it to be my fault."

Dice-K is still a long way away from being able to pitch in a major-league game, but perhaps he's closer than anyone expected.

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Clay Buchholz missed more than half of the season with a back injury, but he's ready to go, full speed, this spring. Lester, Josh Beckett and Daniel Bard are penciled in 1-2-3 in Boston's starting rotation. After that, there's some guessing. If Buchholz could return to 2010 form, it would be a big boost. Valentine didn't lament the Red Sox not signing free agent Roy Oswalt, who might sit out until the All-Star break for a better offer.

"Even with Roy Oswalt, I wouldn't be totally comfortable" with Boston's fourth and fifth starters, Valentine said. "What, did he pitch 136 innings last year?" [Actually, 139.]

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I wouldn't have signed Oswalt, either, general manager Ben Cherington (right).

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Because of a wrist injury, outfielder Carl Crawford is behind the other position players' readiness. That's why he's still in his long underwear and meditating.

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All right, practice is over, just as soon as Dustin Pedroia signs a dozen baseballs. Check back in later for a look at the Red Sox's new spring home, JetBlue Park. It's got everything they need (even Youuuuuk), including an actual Green Monster replica (with some differences).

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