FORT MYERS, Fla. - Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, now an analyst for ESPN and WEEI, has been unusually critical of manager Bobby Valentine in recent days.
Schilling has accused Valentine of “epically’’ mismanaging Daniel Bard’s conversion from the bullpen to the rotation, an unusual notion given that Bard followed the usual procedure of starting every five days and building up his endurance.
Bard was named to the rotation on Sunday and said afterward he was comfortable with how he was used.
Schilling also claimed to have spoken to players who were critical of Valentine. Josh Beckett mocked that comment, asking if Schilling was still one of the team’s pitchers.
Schilling last pitched in 2007, although he spent all of 2008 on the disabled list while earning $8 million.
So what does Valentine think of Schilling’s attacks? The usually verbose manager had but one sentence in reply.
“I just consider the source when I hear stuff like that,’’ he said Monday.
Cook on fire
Aaron Cook was 3-10 with a 6.03 earned run average for the Colorado Rockies last season. He appeared in only 18 games because of a lingering shoulder injury.
But the 33-year-old righthander has so far been a find for the Red Sox. He allowed one run on two hits over five innings against the Nationals in a 4-2 victory Monday. In four appearances this spring, Cook posted a 1.88 ERA.
“Coming in, I did not expect him to be giving us five pretty good innings the last day of spring training, so it’s a very pleasant development,’’ Valentine said.
Cook got 11 of his 15 outs on the ground, his sinkerball working effectively against the Washington lineup. He will start the season in the rotation for Triple A Pawtucket.
“It’s been very productive, to be able to go out there and stay healthy all spring and not miss any starts or have any setbacks, that’s something that hasn’t happened the last couple of years,’’ Cook said.
“To be able to take that away this year is definitely a plus.’’
Cook, who is on a minor league contract, can become a free agent May 1 if he is not in the major leagues.
“It’s great to have that kind of depth in our starting rotation. A handful of outings like that, where he builds up his pitch count and maintains his strength, will be a pleasant happenstance,’’ Valentine said.
Aceves: No chance
Alfredo Aceves does not believe he was given a fair chance at making the rotation. The righthander pitched well in four of the five games he appeared in but was passed over for Bard and Felix Doubront.
According to Aceves, Valentine told him that Doubront made the rotation because he’s lefthanded and that the organization wanted Bard to get the other spot.
“So I got no chance. It don’t matter how good you throw, you’re still not going to pitch,’’ Aceves said.
Aceves did say he was fine with the idea of pitching out of the bullpen again.
Valentine said his only real regret in spring training was not getting a chance to see Carl Crawford play.
“That will complicate matters possibly,’’ Valentine said. “I would have loved to have seen him in games and got to work with him and talk with him down here in this practice environment.
“The first time I’m going to see him in uniform will be in that real environment.’’
The left fielder was making a speedy return from wrist surgery in January before inflammation shut him down for 10 days. He has worked his way up to taking batting practice on the field.
“Slowly ahead,’’ Valentine said. “He’s progressing exactly like we wanted him to progress. Hope he just doesn’t get off line. He’ll be up to a couple of at-bats in a game before long.’’
Crawford will stay in Fort Myers to continue his work and take advantage of the warm weather. He could get at-bats in extended spring training games.
Valentine said it was likely Crawford then would be sent on a minor league rehabilitation assignment.
None of the injured players - Crawford, Chris Carpenter, Rich Hill, Bobby Jenks, Ryan Kalish, John Lackey, Andrew Miller, and Daisuke Matsuzaka - traveled with the team after the game. All will continue their rehab work at JetBlue Park.
The Nationals took a four-hour bus ride across the middle of the state to get to the game.
“We saw a lot of orange trees and cows,’’ manager Davey Johnson said.
Fort Myers is interested in the Nationals moving into City of Palms Park, the facility the Red Sox abandoned. The Nationals have asked that improvements be made and the sides are negotiating a possible deal.
Having the Red Sox, Twins, and Nationals in the same city would cut down on travel for those teams and make Fort Myers more of a vacation destination.
Johnson said he liked the idea, but the decision would be made by ownership.
“As long as we’re in Florida, I’m for it,’’ he said.
The Red Sox packed up and left for Washington for a game against the Nationals on Tuesday. The Sox then will travel to Detroit for a workout at Comerica Park on Wednesday afternoon before opening the season on Thursday . . . The final roster decisions are expected after Tuesday’s game . . . Minor leaguers Jon Hee, Will Inman, Daniel Nava, Tony Pena Jr., and Chorye Spoone were temporarily added to the roster for Tuesday’s game . . . The Sox sold out all 16 major league games at JetBlue Park this spring, drawing 151,713 fans. That’s a franchise record for the spring . . . Valentine and Johnson managed against each other for the first time since 2000, when they were with the Mets and Dodgers, respectively . . . Valentine was asked how spring training was after being out of uniform for two years. “I didn’t think I’d last this long, so it’s kind of a pleasant surprise for me,’’ he said. “It was great. Me personally, I enjoyed it.’’Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.