It’s Truck Day Saturday for the Red Sox, the first sure sign that spring is fast approaching.
The Red Sox will ceremoniously load the moving van outside Fenway Park for the weeklong journey to Fort Myers, Fla., where Spring Training will officially begin Feb. 19 with pitchers and catchers reporting to the brand new Fenway South Development Complex and JetBlue Park in Lee County.
Pitchers and catchers will hold their first workouts Feb. 21. Position players report Feb. 23 and the first full team workout will be held on the 25th.
But while the truck will be loaded with the usual bats and balls, all sorts of other baggage will need sorting out upon the team’s arrival.
On Monday, David Ortiz will take part in the first arbitration hearing the Red Sox have conducted in a decade. Ortiz will be asking for $16.5 million, while the Red Sox submitted a figure of $12.65.
Former GM Theo Epstein avoided these hearings for a reason: Regardless of which side wins, they usually produce an uncomfortable amount of hard feelings, as the team essentially tries to prove why the player doesn’t deserve the higher figure. Knowing how proud Big Papi is, and given the whispers about his decline the past three seasons, a bruising affair could leave damaging scars in a clubhouse already in need of healing.
Speaking of the clubhouse, Josh Beckett recently told Kevin Millar on MLB Network that what happens there is supposed to stay there, beer and chicken be damned. But Beckett figures to face much harsher scrutiny with the Boston media upon his arrival. How Beckett handles his first true public airing of last season’s dirty laundry — and more important, how he responds on the mound — will be a critical early tone-setting test for the embattled ace and his new manager, Bobby Valentine.
A few hardball dates to know this spring:
Feb. 11 The annual PR charade of Truck Day!
Feb. 19 Voluntary reporting date to Fort Myers for pitchers and catchers
Feb. 21 Spring training begins. First workout for Red Sox pitchers and catchers
Feb. 25 First full-squad workout
March 3 Red Sox spring opener vs. Northeastern (2:35 p.m.), Red Sox vs. Boston College, 7:05 p.m. at JetBlue Park
March 4 Grapefruit league opener against Minnesota, 1:35 p.m. at JetBlue Park
April 4 2012 MLB season begins with Cardinals at Marlins
April 5 Red Sox season opener at Detroit.