By Sean McAdam
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- John Farrell sat in the dugout at City of Palms Park Friday afternoon, watching the Red Sox take batting practice.
That much was the same.
Everything else was different.
Farrell was in the visitor's dugout, not the home one on the third-base side. He wore the uniform of the Toronto Blue Jays and not the Red Sox. And instead of filling the role of pitching coach, Farrell was a manager.
Wave after wave of Red Sox well-wishers visited him, from players (Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Varitek), to members of the baseball operations staff (GM Theo Epstein, player development director Mike Hazen), and, of course, Terry Francona, with whom he worked closely for four seasons.
"I'm sure it will be strange,'' said Farrell before his Blue Jays met the Red Sox for the first time this spring. "Four years made a major impact, personally and professionally. And there were a lot of great relationships, that's for sure, with a lot of people.
''Being on this side of the field will probably be different.''
The Jays hired Farrell last October, selecting him over Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale, and this spring has been a whirlwind. After concentrating on the pitching staff alone with the Red Sox, Farrell is now in charge of an entire roster for the first time.
"The biggest learning curve,'' he related, "has been inside the game - dealing with the other side of the ball, for lack of a better term. Running an offense, taking input from the staff. Other than that, I can't say that it's been a complete surprise in any way.''
Farrell has had to broaden his scope in the dugout. No longer does he have the luxury of focusing solely on "one pitcher's delivery. In that way, it's been fun. It's a much broader scope. That's been new, obviously. But it's been a lot of fun.''
He's leaned on bench coach Don Wakamatsu, hitting coach Dwayne Murphy and third base coach Bruce Butterfield to help with the learning curve, in much the same way Francona once relied on Farrell and others on his staff.
Farrell inherits a team in transition. Gone are outfielder Vernon Wells, first baseman Lyle Overbay and catcher John Buck, who combined for 71 homers last season.
In their place, the Jays are intent on being a more athletic, aggressive team, somewhat in the mold of the upstart Tampa Bay Rays, who have used a modest payroll, strong pitching and a daring offensive gameplan to win the American League East two of the last three seasons.
"(The Rays) are tangible evidence that you can put together a team which can compete in this division,'' he said. "I think the days of sitting back with unathletic, one-dimensional kind of players is probably behind the game as a whole -- for obvious reasons.
"We feel like we've got a good nucleus of pitchers. But we'd like to play an uptempo style of game. Having prepared against different styles of teams, that's one that can create a little bit more uncertainty. If we can be that much more unpredictable rather than one-dimensional, that's the ultimate goal.''
Even from afar (and now a division rival), Farrell finds himself occasionally leaning on Francona for advice. The two were close friends for years before they joined together with the Red Sox and Francona's influence is still felt.
"I can go on and on about the time spent together and what he means to me,'' said Farell. "I'm forever grateful. There's quite a bit of (Francona's influence). Let's face it -- I haven't had a chance to develop my own managing style. So I'm going to take with me a lot of what he did, either with players or staff or the way he respects the game, the way he dealt with umpires, the media.
"Certainly, I'm my own person. I'm not trying to be Tito. But there's a lot of things that, having experienced first-hand, that are going to have an influence. That goes without saying.''