It is unquestionably going to take a lot — did someone say something about a 7-19 September? — to knock the smile off Bobby Valentine’s face as he strolls the grounds of the Red Sox’s new spring training complex, savoring every moment in his first major league managerial gig since his stormy and unceremonious departure from the Mets in 2002.
Even the constant reminders of the Red Sox’s epic collapse last fall, which will endure in the hearts and minds of Red Sox Nation until further notice, can’t dim Bobby V’s effusion simply because, other than being the primary beneficiary of it, he had nothing do with it.
However, after acknowledging so many key unsettled positions — shortstop, right field, left field (until Carl Crawford’s wrist is healed), the fourth and fifth starting rotation spots — Valentine did express genuine surprise Sunday about how uncustomary this is for the Red Sox. Not since 2003, when first base was a competition between David Ortiz, Kevin Millar and Jeremy Giambi, have the Red Sox gone into spring training with an open position, and with the tireless knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (who announced his retirement Friday) always around, starting rotation depth has never been much of an issue in recent years, either.