Farrell, Valentine work as persistent rumors swirl
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TON -- Blue Jays manager John Farrell leaned on a pair of facts when grilled about a potential return to the Red Sox on Friday: He is under contract with Toronto for 2013, just as Bobby Valentine is with Boston.
Farrell is aware of what's being said, that Boston may want its former pitching coach to replace Valentine as manager -- if Valentine is, indeed, dismissed. Valentine's time with the Red Sox has approached a circus-like tenor, and Farrell hasn't led the Blue Jays to the playoffs in his two seasons with the team.
A lot of dominoes would have to fall to make any reunion a reality. Still, no matter loomed larger for the pair of teams at the bottom of the American League East and playing a weekend series at Fenway Park.
"There's a lot of speculation, obviously, but as I said last week in Toronto, I'm the manager of the Blue Jays," Farrell said to a large media gathering in the visitors' dugout at Fenway Park. "This is where my focus and commitment is. I'm under contract. That's obvious. If I wasn't I wouldn't be sitting here today. At the same time, we've dealt with a lot of challenges ourselves. I can understand the natural connection, because I've worked here in the past, but my focus is clearly with the Blue Jays.
"I don't know that you can fully anticipate anything. You understand there are articles written, there's things that are out there. With respect to everyone involved, my focus is right here, in this dugout, in this uniform."
The Blue Jays have a policy forbidding lateral moves to other organizations, so they theoretically would not allow Farrell to take another managerial job while still under contract. Whether that policy could be bent if the Red Sox make the right offer, however, is to be seen. So, too, is whether Boston ends up searching for a manager at all -- although upper management has made no promise about Valentine's future.
Asked if he wanted the kind of promise that Valentine hasn't yet received -- that he's definitely wanted for next season -- Farrell said it's a non-issue.
"You're putting the cart way before the horse with that," he said. "My contract is through 2013. My approach day in and day out doesn't hinge upon my status. My focus and attention is today, right here."
Valentine reiterated on Friday that he's not paying attention to the airwaves and the papers, even though, as a reporter mentioned, he's human.
"Come on. I am? No. I'm not a human being," Valentine quipped. "But as much as some people question when I say I don't read it and I don't listen to it, I don't. So it's easy to block it out, because I'm not there. I hear about it once in a while, but whatever. If you're 30 games in first place and you start reading and listening to everyone say how great you are, it's just as distracting as the opposite, which is the case right now."
Both teams have been hurt by injuries en route to disappointing seasons, leading Farrell to carry some professional empathy for Valentine.
"It's definitely not easy," Farrell said.
Farrell, too, spoke well of Terry Francona, the manager for whom he worked during his four years in Boston. Farrell won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2007, and Boston's pitching staff has not been the same since he left for ther Blue Jays prior to the 2011 season.
"Through it all, through the ups and downs along the way, the one thing Tito always talked about was, be true to yourself," Farrell said. "As long as you can look yourself in the mirror and know that you did what you felt was the right thing to do -- and that being, the players come first -- as long as you keep the players first in your decision-making and your thoughts toward them individually, you're probably guided in the right direction to the right thing."
Naturally, Farrell still has friends in Boston, on the field, all the way up to the front office. Until some determination on Valentine is made, though, there's little else Farrell can say publicly.
"I had the fortunate ability to work closely with guys that I respect and guys that we have history even prior to working here in Boston, whether it was [Red Sox assistant general manager] Mike Hazen and I running the farm system in Cleveland," he said. "Not only are they professional colleagues, on some level they became personal friends. We had success, we shared a lot of challenges along the way. That's what you would hope would take place having worked for a number of years in one place or another."