Red Sox GM says there's no rift with Valentine and that they agree a lot

BOSTON -- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington discounted the occasional early claim that there's a rift between himself and new manager Bobby Valentine, saying disagreements between the front office and manager over personnel matters are normal while painting a picture of general harmony between the two very different men.

While Cherington is young and reserved and Valentine experienced, outgoing and outspoken, there is no real evidence of any sort of divide. Cherington hired Valentine but only after Red Sox higherups Larry Lucchino and John Henry, the slub president and owner, suggested he take a look at him, so their union may take a closer inspection than most. The two men didn't know each other before the interview process, and there may be growing pains. But ultimately, they carry the potential to make a formidable team. Both are extremely bright.

And while there were indeniably some spring disagreements, Cherington suggested they both eventually wound up on the same page.

"I don't think there was one decision in spring training that, ultimately, we didn't agree on,'' Cherington said.

It's been documented that Valentine at one point in spring had thoughts about keeping young catcher Ryan Lavarnway and shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias on the team and wondered whether Daniel Bard might be better suited for the bullpen than the rotation, but by the end, those disagreements seemed muted, at least publicly. In Iglesias' case, by the end, he was batting well below .200, making it a tough case to promote him. Cherington is a big supporter of journeyman Mike Aviles, about whom he says bring more "substance than style.'' Valentine is well-known for being willing to speak his mind, and that isn't likely to change. But the original inclinations of the front office prevailed in the end.

"One of the greatest attributes we look for in a manager is being willing to embarce a young player,'' Cherington said, regarding Valentine's support of Lavarnway and Iglesias. "That's great for the Boston Red Sox. Several young players Bobby got to know and like.''

Cherington pointed out that spring debates are commonplace throught the majors, and surely not unique to the Red Sox. Of course, the Cherington-Valentine debates are the only one that made the papers, which may have more to do with the interest level and media vigilance surrounding the Red Sox.

"Debates between the manager, coaching staff and front office over various aspects of the team go on in with all thirty teams,'' Cherington said. "I've enjoyed working with Bobby. I understand questions are going to be asked, but I am surprised by all that's being asked.''

"I want him to push back,'' Cherington said as well. "I wouldn't manager a manager to be in agreement all the time.  Most things, we do agree on. But I think it's healthy to debate. That's what I want, and I think that's what he wants.''

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