FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Visitors to spring training this month have noticed that, under new manager Bobby Valentine, Red Sox players -- not just staff members and coaches -- are hitting grounders to teammates during infield practice.
It's not a case of Valentine attempting to humble players by doing the chore. Rather, it's all about being more efficient and getting more out of the drill.
"Because we have infielders there and there's 11 of them,'' said Valentine, ''and we have two coaches to work with them and that would mean nine guys stand and doing nothing while two guys stand and catch the ball, I devised a system to have four guys not fielding and have just those seven guys fielding so they have more repetition and, at times, get a ball that actually hit from a bat that will have proper top spin, rather than backspin.
"It's a way of keeping those guys active. And it's also some simulation of real-life spin on a grounder.''
Valentine corrected a reporter who asked about players hitting fungoes, noting that they were using standard bats and not fungo bats (thinner and tapered from handle to barrel). He then added this caveat:
"Just for the record,'' began Valentine, "if we get off to a slow start and someone says it's because they were hitting fungos -- which they weren't hitting; they were hitting grounder -- and got into bad habits . . . I'm calling (baloney) on that right now, OK? Just for the record."