FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said this the other day when talking about his increased emphasis on controlling the running game this season.
"I hear -- and this might be real wrong -- I hear there were a couple of pitching coaches here who said it didn't matter," Valentine said. "If you can keep [the runner] on first and get a double play, a lot of times, that means [another] inning [that a pitcher can stay in the game]."
One of those recent pitching coaches -- John Farrell -- Valentine might have been speaking of was at JetBlue Park Tuesday night managing against the Red Sox.
How much attention did Farrell pay to the running game during his time in Boston?
"A tremendous amount," said Farrell, who served as Boston's pitching coach from 2007-10. "If you look over the last four or five years, the running game has become much more prevalent with some approaches by a given team. Yet, at the same time, you want to be sure that -- if you spend a lot of time focusing on the guy at first, the next thing you know, they're all jogging around the bases. The pitch execution was the priority.
"That's not to distance the need to control the running game. Guys evolve in that area at a different rate and at a different pace. First and foremost, that they're executing a game plan is the priority."
Sans hoodie, Belichick gives informal pep talk
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Wearing a white visor and shorts, and with no trace of his trademark hoodie, Patriots coach Bill Belichick gave the Red Sox an informal pep talk before Tuesday night's Grapefruit League game against the Blue Jays.
Belichick and Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine have a relationship that goes back to the late 1990s, when the former was the defensive coordinator for the Jets and the latter was managing the Mets.
Valentine has attended practices coached by Belichick, and the Pats' coach is a big baseball fan.
"It was nice," Valentine said. "He's a good baseball fan. You know, he was a little pressed for time. He got a little hung up in traffic, but he came down from Tampa and made it. He said what he wanted to say to them and he said he'll be back. It's not like he's one-stop shopping."
Belichick has led the Patriots to five Super Bowl appearances and three championships in his 12 years as head coach. In other words, players are going to listen to what he says.
"I think he used a little reference of when things don't go right, you can turn the page," said Valentine. "'A new year is a new year. Make it the best you can make it.' He follows our team. It's not just like he dropped out from Mars and wanted to say, 'Hey, how you doing.' He kind of gets it."
Belichick sat in the front row of the stands, not far from the Boston dugout on the third-base side. Valentine had an exchange with him between innings at one point.
Padilla dealing with strained right hamstring
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In one breath, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said on Tuesday that Vicente Padilla might be the pitcher who has surprised him most during camp in a good way. In the next, Valentine revealed that Padilla has a strained right hamstring.
It is unclear at this juncture how much the injury will slow Padilla in his quest to win a spot on Boston's pitching staff.
The injury happened in the weight room, not the mound.
"It's still within the first 24 hours," said Valentine. "It happened in the weight room yesterday at this time. You know, they always wait."
While Padilla is down for an unspecified period, lefty Franklin Morales is finally ramping back up from his bout with shoulder weakness.
Morales will make his first Grapefruit League appearance on Wednesday in Bradenton against the Pirates.
In other injury news, right fielder Ryan Sweeney returned to the lineup Tuesday night from a right quad injury that had left him out since March 12.
"He ran the bases hard yesterday," Valentine said. "He ran the bases the day before at 80 percent. He felt nothing, so he's back. You're going to see him a lot more regularly than some of the other guys here in the next few days."
Meanwhile, left fielder Carl Crawford (left wrist) is taking baby steps as he tries to get closer to game action.
Crawford took 25 swings on Tuesday and played long toss at 125 feet.
Miller dealing with mild left hamstring strain
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Lefty Andrew Miller felt a twinge after making just one pitch on Tuesday night against the Blue Jays. After his second pitch, it was clear he couldn't go on any longer.
In a battle to win a roster spot, Miller hit a bump in the road, leaving the Red Sox's 9-2 loss with what the club labeled a mild left hamstring strain.
It is the second setback Miller has had this spring. A couple of weeks ago, he was sidelined with left elbow stiffness.
"[He] felt it on the first pitch," manager Bobby Valentine said. "It] would've been better to call [time out at] that time. But I didn't see it on the first pitch. I saw it on the second pitch, as everyone did."
It's too soon to tell how long this injury will set Miller back.
Valentine thinks it's still feasible Miller could break camp as a reliever, but getting stretched out to starting innings might be a bit of a reach due to his latest injury.
Beckett happy Lester to start Opening Day
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox right-hander Josh Beckett, who will pitch the Red Sox's home opener on April 13 against the Rays, is looking forward to the honor. And he's also happy that his good friend Jon Lester will be the man who opens the season on April 5 in Detroit.
"It's kind of a nice little perk," Beckett said. "Obviously the carrot at the end of the stick is winning a World Series and pitching well in the playoffs. It's a perk of putting your work in and doing things the right way. It's a rewarding thing."
Beckett was pleased that he had a chance to talk about the issue with manager Bobby Valentine during a face-to-face meeting in Texas on New Year's Day. In fact, it was Beckett who suggested Lester be first out of the gate for the second consecutive season.
"We were really trying to alleviate distractions," Beckett said. "There wasn't anything really else that went into it. That's a special thing. Generally people who say it's not, probably never had one. It's a tough day to pitch, but it's an honor. I don't think you should take it for granted. It's a pretty cool thing."
Beckett has pitched five Opening Days in his career.