Mike Lowell, Coco Crisp, Manny Ramirez, Alex Cora and Sean Casey were among those who dropped by the club's complex in Fort Myers Wednesday. The only player who has yet to report to camp is non-roster outfielder Bobby Kielty, who has been excused until Saturday because his wife is about to give birth.
Lowell and David Ortiz, the latter of whom reported to Ft. Myers Tuesday, held press conferences while Crisp held court in the locker room and discussed how he'd react if he loses the centerfield job to Jacoby Ellsbury. Here's a look at what transpired Wednesday:
Crisp wants to start—or else: Crisp, whose agent said in December that Crisp would not accept a backup role to Ellsbury, admitted he would rather be traded than come off the bench for the Sox.
"I would honestly rather be somewhere else and play than be on the bench," Crisp told reporters. "But I'll take whatever comes and deal with it."
The Sox, of course, went 6-0 in the AL Championship Series and World Series after Ellsbury took over in centerfield prior to Game Six of the ALCS. Still, Terry Francona made sure to refer to Crisp as the incumbent during his first press conference at Ft. Myers, though it is generally believed the starting job is Ellsbury's to lose after his brilliant performance last September (.361 with a hit in 23 of 26 games) and October (9-for-24 over the final six games, including 6-for-9 in Games Three and Four of the World Series).
"I want to play everyday," Crisp said. "I think everybody wants to play everyday, and if you don't, there's something wrong with you. I don't want to sit on the bench. I could cheerlead with the best of them, but that's not where I want to be."
Crisp said he worked out extensively over the winter and reported to camp weighing 187 pounds, 14 more than last season. He said he hopes to prove to Sox fans he's a better offensive player than he's displayed over the last two seasons. Crisp hit just .264 during an injury-plagued 2006 and .268 last year. He has 14 homers as a member of the Sox—two fewer than he hit during his final season with the Indians in 2005.
"People think my offense is terrible," Crisp said. "Well, now it's time for me to prove that it isn't. I went through a couple of bruised-up years."
Lowell always figured he'd stay: It's not like Lowell had to work to gain more approval from Sox fans, but he further ingratiated himself with the faithful Wednesday, when he said their passion was a main reason he remained with the Sox rather than signing a longer and more lucrative deal with the Phillies, Yankees or Dodgers.
"The fans were a major, major factor in my signing," Lowell told reporters. "It's definitely encouraging when you get the support of the people you play in front of. I've said it from day one: I love playing in Fenway."
Lowell said he knew he'd re-sign with the Sox as soon as the club presented him with a three-year offer. "I think after the initial offer by the Red Sox, I knew we were in the ballpark," Lowell said. "Honestly, I think my only fear would have been if they said ‘Two years or nothing.' Then I think it might have gotten tough, just because I think the guarantee is big in this sport. If it would have been four years [from other teams] as opposed to two, I think I would have had to think about it a lot more."
Ortiz: Bring back Manny: Ortiz and Ramirez have formed one of the most productive 3-4 combinations in baseball since 2003. So it's little surprise that Ortiz hopes the Sox retain Ramirez, who has team options worth $20 million apiece in 2009 and 2010.
"At one point, this team is going to have to do something about it, because there's not a hitter like Manny out there," Ortiz told reporters. "Manny is the kind of guy that [you] definitely want to have on your team because of all the success he's had in his career and what he's done and what you expect from him. Manny is the type of guy that when he's healthy, you know what you're going to get from Manny."
Ramirez missed most of September last year due to a strained oblique and fell short of 30 homers and 100 RBI for the first time since 1997, but he spent most of the winter working out at the Athletes Performance Institute in Arizona and is reportedly in outstanding shape as he enters his contract year.
Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at email@example.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE.
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