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Red Sox Hope for Fresh Start

February 16, 2002

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FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) _ Pedro Martinez’s eyes widened and his smile spread when he talked about that special item in his trophy room.

It’s not any of his three Cy Young awards, and doesn’t even have a direct connection to baseball. It does, however, remind the Boston Red Sox ace of his goal and how to reach it.

It’s a football signed before last season by the New England Patriots, who won the Super Bowl with an unselfish team effort.

``I was rooting for them because that’s the only team I got a ball signed from,″ Martinez said.

``Hopefully, we’ll learn from them. I wish I could do exactly what they did.″

The Patriots’ first championship in its 42-year history was a shock. Boston’s first title in 84 years would be equally stunning.

The Patriots won despite plenty of distractions, including the death of quarterbacks coach Dick Rehbein, the suspensions of Terry Glenn and the injury to Drew Bledsoe.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, couldn’t get past their problems last year, including the firing of manager Jimy Williams, the suspension and grousing of Carl Everett and injuries to Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek.

The Patriots started at 1-3 then went 13-2. The Red Sox were 65-53 under Williams but 17-26 under Joe Kerrigan and missed the playoffs.

But now, Varitek, Garciaparra and Martinez are expected to be ready for opening day and Everett was traded to Texas.

``We’re going to move forward,″ Kerrigan said. ``We’re not going to talk about last year. The only thing we’re concerned about is 2002.″

From new owner John Henry to veteran offseason acquisitions to the departure of Everett there is a calmer, more hopeful atmosphere at the start of spring training than at the end of last season.

``I would like to think that everything was washed off in the shower after that last day,″ first baseman Tony Clark said. ``One would assume now that everybody’s pointed in the right direction and, from what I’ve seen, that seems to be the case.″

The addition of veterans such as Clark, who were successful elsewhere but never became superstars, mirrors the approach of the Patriots, who signed players like Brian Cox, Roman Phifer, Mike Vrabel, Anthony Pleasant, Terrell Buckley, Antowain Smith, Marc Edwards and Mike Compton _ all keys to their championship.

For the Red Sox, newcomers John Burkett and Dustin Hermanson have been penciled in the rotation behind Martinez. Johnny Damon will bat leadoff and Clark probably will hit fifth behind Manny Ramirez and add needed professionalism to the clubhouse.

Everett clashed with both managers, players whined about not having a steady lineup, and Derek Lowe was upset when he lost his closer’s job to Ugueth Urbina. Even Ramirez, in the first year of an eight-year, $160 million contract, left the team before the end of the season for undisclosed personal reasons and said he was uncomfortable in Boston.

Henry is expected to help change the atmosphere by being a more visible presence. He’s a more passionate baseball fan than former owner John Harrington, and is expected to be around the players more.

``I think communication’s going to be a lot better between the players and management,″ first baseman Brian Daubach said. ``Before, sometimes, if you saw management, it was like a problem or you knew something was wrong.

``Everything looks upbeat already,″ he added. ``It seems like a 100 percent turnaround from the way the season ended last year.″

Burkett heard about the problems when he was in Atlanta last season.

``I don’t know all the details. I don’t care, to tell you the truth. Every year’s different and I really like the look of this team,″ he said.

With Damon, Trot Nixon and Garciaparra batting in the first three spots, Kerrigan plans to run more, a longtime weakness of the Red Sox. Kerrigan also can use stolen-base king Rickey Henderson.

``You take a look at what the Patriots did,″ Duquette said. ``All those guys checked their ego at the door and committed to the ballclub. That’s what we need to do.

``That’s what you have to do if you’re going to have a championship team.″

Martinez is critical to achieving that, just as quarterback Tom Brady was to the Patriots.

``He’s a good-looking boy, too,″ the Red Sox best thrower said about Brady, who may toss out the first pitch at Fenway Park on April 1.

Martinez will probably throw the second and, like Brady, should look pretty good if he wears a championship smile.

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