- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Jason Bay is done talking about his offseason free-agent status. He doesn't want to discuss his four-year $66-million deal with the New York Mets. He doesn't want to talk about the fallout he had with the Red Sox and the supposed health issues Boston was concerned about.
"First and foremost, I've got to tell you if you guys came to get any offseason quotes, I'm done talking about that," Bay told a small group of Red Sox beat writers Thursday morning at Tradition Field. "Health-related, or anything like that, I'm taking the Fifth. I'm trying to move on. I said my piece and I've moved on. It's done. Nothing is going to change."
While he wouldn't talk about the business relationship with his former club, Bay had no trouble discussing how the Red Sox will do in the post-J-Bay era.
During the offseason, when the Sox added to their pitching depth by signing John Lackey and improved their defense with the signings of outfielder Mike Cameron, third baseman Adrian Beltre and shortstop Marco Scutaro, talk quickly began to spread throughout the Nation that the Sox did nothing to improve the offense.
Bay believes that can't be any further from the truth.
"I think it's ludicrous that everybody keeps talking about their offense, Beltre and Cameron, I guess it's offseason fodder. You're doing your calculations and all of that, but I mean it's actually kind of baffling, almost funny to me that those guys over there have to keep answering offensive questions, because I think they're going to be fine. You look at the guys they have, are you going to score 15 runs a game? Who is? But how much offense are you looking for? I think it's laughable that's even an issue because I think they will be more than fine."
Bay hit .267 for the Red Sox last season with a team-leading 36 homers and 119 RBIs. In 2009, Beltre posted eight homers and 44 RBIs, Scutaro had 12 homers and 60 RBIs and Cameron had 24 and 70. The Red Sox offense will be productive in 2010, but losing Bay's bat will hurt.
"I can't argue with the numbers," said Bay. "If you look at the complementary roles the other guys are going to play, David [Ortiz] bounces back, I guess there are some question marks, but at the same time I think they are in a much better position offensively than people are painting them. Basically people are saying they're going to score three runs a game and that's that, which couldn't be further from the truth. With the staff they have, having Victor [Martinez] for a whole year, [Jacoby] Ellsbury's gone yard twice during [a game] this spring training, he might get 30 this year, he might be your guy right there."
Ellsbury has shown the ability to hit the long ball, but that's not what the Red Sox need from him. As the leadoff hitter, his job is to start the line moving, get on base and score. But Bay is right when he says Ortiz needs to be productive in 2010.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona has been answering questions all spring about the club's pitching and defensive upgrades. Those are obvious topics, but the offense has a chance to be very good, too. After all, if Jason Bay says it, it must be true. Right?
"I can't ever see Jason Bay coming out, saying, 'Geez, the Red Sox are going to suck.' I'm not sitting here worried about our offense," said Francona. "We're just trying to get ready for what we hope is a really good season."
Without Jason Bay.
When Bay signed with the Mets, and the Red Sox signed Cameron to play center field, Boston's management decided to move Ellsbury to left field. Bay believes it'll be a good move.
"I think he'll do great. If anything, he might not know it, it'll probably help him a little bit," said Bay. "It'll save his legs because he won't be covering as much ground definitely at home, and even on the road you're not covering as much room as you normally would, and for a guy like him it'll keep him a little bit fresher here and there. In a perfect world he's definitely a center fielder, but I don't think this is going to hurt him at all."
Because Ellsbury has made most of the road trips this spring, Francona allowed him to stay in Fort Myers to get his work done the next two days. It's unusual, however, on a three-hour bus trip like this one, for a bunch of veteran players to want to play, but when the Grapefruit League schedule was announced, numerous Red Sox players knew they would want to make the trip here just to see Bay.
When the Sox arrived here Thursday morning, Bay received many hugs from Red Sox players and club personnel.
"He's a very popular teammate," said Francona. "Just because he changed uniforms, it takes away nothing from what he did. The day he walked into our clubhouse, he was solid. He's a good guy. The business side of the game doesn't change how you feel about people. I know the business side isn't always fun. There are difficult decisions, but that doesn't change how you feel about people."
Even though this was a home game for the Mets, there were plenty of Red Sox fans in attendance. When Bay was introduced in his first plate appearance, many loud boos could be heard coming from the stands.
"He's awesome. He's the same guy," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "It's a little different seeing him in another uniform. ... He was great for us. He's a first-class guy. The Mets got a great player and a great person. If people want to boo him, I don't think he cares. He's with a team that wanted him and loved him. We've moved on, and so has he."
Even though Bay spent only a year and a half with the Red Sox after the club acquired him in a three-team trade that ultimately sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers, it was still strange for his former teammates to see Bay in a Mets uniform. Bay said prior to Thursday's game that his transition to a new team has been a smooth one.
"It's been pretty seamless," he said. "I feel like I've been in there a lot longer than I have. I guess you play long enough, you play against enough guys and with enough guys, like I said to them when I got here, I've walked into a new clubhouse a lot of times before and doing it in spring training is a little bit easier than getting thrust in the middle of the season. There's pros and cons to both, but it's actually gone well."
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.
Embraced by former teammates, Jason Bay says Sox offense will be fine.