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Yankees brace f…

March 13, 2012

Yankees brace for first meeting with new Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine in spring training

Joe Girardi downplays exhibition game against Bobby V’s Sox

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Monday, March 12, 2012, 11:19 PM


Bobby Valentine is heading to Tampa for first time in Red Sox uniform in what promises to be first of many showdowns with Bombers. Photo by AP

David Goldman/AP

Bobby Valentine is heading to Tampa for first time in what promises to be first of many showdowns with Bombers.

TAMPA – The Bobby V show is making its way to Tampa.

Although only a handful of Boston’s name players will be in attendance for Tuesday night’s Yankees-Red Sox game, Bobby Valentine will be front and center as he gets his first chance to prepare for his role in baseball’s biggest rivalry.

“When will it be? Tomorrow night?” Valentine said Monday to reporters in Fort Myers when asked if he was excited about his first spring game against the Yankees. “Absolutely! I won’t be able to sleep tonight. This will be a big one.”

Valentine spoke in jest, though given the comments he made two weeks ago, it’s hard to believe he didn’t have Tuesday circled on his Grapefruit League schedule.

Boston’s new manager attempted to tweak two of the Yankees’ biggest stars in late February, questioning Jeter’s assertion that the Yankees practice the legendary “flip play” he made in the 2001 postseason while bringing up Alex Rodriguez’s fight with Jason Varitek in 2004, saying A-Rod was “beat up” by the Red Sox catcher.

The Yankees were mostly indifferent about the comments at the time, but if nothing else, Valentine’s words signaled that he planned to take a different approach to the rivalry than his predecessor, Terry Francona.

Joe Girardi has no plans to mention Valentine’s comments when he sees his fellow manager, hardly a surprise given his attitude about the situation when it first came up.

“As I told you that day, I worry about our club — my present-day club,” Girardi said. “I’m not worried about three years ago, a year ago, 10 years ago. I’m worried about now; tomorrow, today.”

Although the game will not come close to a regular-season tilt between the two teams, the stands at Steinbrenner Field figure to be filled with Yankees fans looking for a Boston beatdown.

“The fans, they don’t care if it’s spring training or not,” said Ivan Nova, who will start for the Yankees. “They just want the Yankees to beat Boston.”

“I’m sure there will be a different excitement level in the stands,” Girardi said. “I’m sure it will feel a little bit different, but I’m not so sure our players will get too caught up with it. I try to tell them not to get too caught up in it during the season. You have to go out and play.”

Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Aviles are the starters making the two-hour trip from Fort Myers, while other stars such as Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz will not be on the travel roster.

“We want to set the tone tomorrow,” Valentine said, tongue planted firmly in cheek. “We really want to let them know who we are and send a message.”

During George Steinbrenner’s heyday, losing a game to the Red Sox — even in spring training — was a mortal sin. Girardi certainly hopes his team wins Tuesday’s game, but not at any cost.

“I don’t want guys going out and doing something crazy tomorrow so they miss six weeks of the season,” Girardi said. “Go out and do what you’re supposed to do, stay within yourself and see where the chips fall. I don’t particularly want Jeet jumping into the stands head-first.”

Tuesday night’s game clearly won’t have the same feel as a meeting at Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, but any way you look at it, it’s still Yankees-Red Sox.

“A night game against the Red Sox? Regardless of whether it’s spring training or not, regardless of who’s coming or who’s not, it’s still a game,” Nick Swisher said. “We’re still going to go out there and play hard. I think it’s going to be a blast. This place is going to be packed. I can’t wait.”

Girardi used the word “interesting” to predict the reception Valentine will receive from the Tampa crowd, though he noted that Francona was cheered by many fans when he came to Steinbrenner Field a couple weeks ago.

“He got a pretty warm reception,” Girardi said. “It’s amazing how when you take the hat off, they feel a little different.”

As Valentine will find out, the same goes for putting the “B” hat on.


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