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Bobby Valentine sets early tone with Yankees

Admits mistake on Derek Jeter’s flip, but issue persists

Bobby Valentine (above) went a little too far in critiquing Derek Jeter; the Yankees really did practice the 2001 cutoff play.

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Bobby Valentine (above) went a little too far in critiquing Derek Jeter; the Yankees really did practice the 2001 cutoff play.

FORT MYERS, Fla. - A day after he openly questioned whether Derek Jeter’s famous flip/cutoff play was one the Yankees practiced, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine acknowledged he was wrong after conferring with Sox bullpen coach Gary Tuck, who was a Yankees coach for many years.

Valentine, who put his players through relay drills Tuesday, said there was no way the Yankees practiced Jeter’s famous flip play against Oakland in Game 3 of the 2001 Division Series.

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“Total mistake on my part, because they do practice it, that’s for sure,’’ Valentine said. “It’s hard to practice that, because why are we going to practice a bad throw? That’s not what we’re doing here. But I get it. I get it.’’

Valentine was informed that some people were irritated by his comments.

“I want it on record that I love Derek Jeter as a player,’’ he said after a brief laugh. “It was not a slight toward him.’’

On the play, Jeter ended up on the first-base line and fielded a throw from Shane Spencer in right field that missed two cutoff men. He then backhanded the ball to catcher Jorge Posada, who tagged out Jeremy Giambi to end the seventh inning in a game the Yankees won, 1-0.

“We’ll never practice that,’’ Valentine said Tuesday. “I think he was out of position. I think the ball gets him out if he doesn’t touch it, personally.

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“That was amazing that he was there. I bet it’s more amazing to say they practiced it. I don’t believe it.’’

Jeter responded yesterday at Yankees camp in Tampa by telling reporters, “I mean, we do. You’ve seen it. You guys have been here.’’

Would Giambi, who many believe would have been safe had he slid, have been out anyway?

“What do you want me to say?’’ said Jeter. “I mean, really. What am I supposed to say? I don’t think anything. I really don’t. I have no thoughts whatsoever about that.

“Why are we talking about this? He must be bored over there, huh? I don’t understand.’’

Still, they practice it?

“Yeah,’’ said Jeter. “I don’t flip it home when we practice it. I’m the cutoff guy. He’s the cutoff guy to get the runner at third. We do practice it, but not the flip home.

“Am I supposed to convince [Valentine]? I don’t know Bobby well enough to tell you what he’s trying to do. I could care less, I guess that’s the best way to put it.

“I just don’t know why it’s being brought up. I don’t know what to tell you.’’

Was Jeter amused or annoyed by Valentine’s comments?

“I’m indifferent, really,’’ said Jeter. “Think about it. We don’t practice it? We do. You guys see it. What else can I say? I was out of position? I was where I was supposed to be.’’

Kalish comes through

Outfielder Ryan Kalish, who underwent offseason shoulder and neck surgery, was happy to report that his first throwing session was a smash hit. He said he made 25-30 throws from about 45 feet. “He looks pretty healthy,’’ said Valentine. “Of course, you have to see guys, once they start new activities, how they feel later. He did a workout and then he went down and bunted with [bench coach Tim Bogar] for a while. He’s bouncing around. He’s a pretty good-looking athlete. He seems to be recovered pretty nicely. Maybe not 100 percent, but pretty nicely.’’ . . . Valentine had players doing popup drills at JetBlue Park while some of his speed guys - such as Carl Crawford and Kalish - did bunting drills. Crawford said Valentine has asked him to work on his bunting to create more hits with his speed. “I think it’s a great idea,’’ Crawford said. “I was never a great bunter, but it’s something I can get better at, no doubt.’’ Valentine’s take: “It’s something he wants to do. He thinks it will open up the field for him a little more. I’m sure it would.’’ Crawford is also inching closer to taking live batting practice.

Mutual admiration

Cody Ross is very impressed with Valentine’s camp, and the manager is impressed with Ross. Both used the word “energy’’ to describe one another. “I’m getting to know him as a player, just in practice,’’ said Valentine. “He always has bounce in his step, he has good energy about him. What I’ve seen of him on video and statistically, he seems like he’s a guy who pulls the ball well. He’s capable of putting the ball in the air. Plays good defense. Has a pedigree of postseason play. I think there’s a lot to like about him. I’m getting to know him as a player.’’ Ross said of Valentine, “He has a tremendous amount of energy. His workouts have been very well done. He really has reduced the amount of standing around players have to do. Things are moving really well.’’ . . . Andrew Bailey played long toss and said his slightly strained lat muscle is responding to treatment. He expects to start throwing bullpens as early as today.

The game plan

Valentine said he’s looking for today’s “B’’ game pitchers vs. the Twins at Hammond Stadium to “get through healthy, throw strikes, work on the plan that they’ve been planning, work it into the game. You’ll see them do some of the stuff you’ve seen here, a pitchout once in a while, a pickoff, that wouldn’t normally be done.’’ The pitchers will go one inning apiece. The lineup: Alfredo Aceves, Daniel Bard, Clayton Mortensen, Jesse Carlson, Tony Pena Jr., Alex Wilson, Will Inman, Justin Thomas. Positional players: Lars Anderson, Dan Butler, Pedro Ciriaco, Luis Exposito, Alex Hassan, Jose Iglesias, Josh Kroeger, Ryan Lavarnway, Che-Hsuan Lin, Juan Carlos Linares, Will Middlebrooks, Jason Repko, Nate Spears, and Oscar Tejeda.

Captain’s orders

Jason Varitek will have his retirement ceremony at JetBlue Park today at 5:30 p.m. One of his longtime rivals, Jeter, said, “I’m happy for him. I enjoyed competing against him all these years. That’s what we should be talking about as opposed to what Bobby said.’’ Does Jeter think the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is diminished and Valentine is trying to stir it up? “No. It’s the same,’’ he said. “I can’t tell you if he’s trying to stir it up. I don’t know why you would have to stir it up. I think our rivalry gets so much attention anyway. But I am not saying that he’s stirring it up, so no headlines tomorrow.’’ Was it strange seeing Terry Francona, working for ESPN, in the clubhouse at Yankees camp? “Yeah,’’ said Jeter. “I’ve always respected Terry. I’ve enjoyed playing against him, getting to know him throughout the years. I have a lot of respect for him and how he manages. Every player that I’ve ever talked to about him appreciated the way he managed and the way he dealt with players.’’ . . . Valentine also commented, while running through Varitek’s accomplishments, how Varitek “beat up’’ Alex Rodriguez. Yesterday, A-Rod responded, “I’m not going to win many battles here when it comes to words, especially against Bobby. I have my new press secretary that should be landing in the next couple days - Reggie Jackson - so I’ll let him handle that.’’

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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