FORT MYERS–Newly acquired Boof Bonser arrived at the Red Sox spring training facility today. Or was it yesterday?
He’s barely had time to unpack his belongings and break in his new glove. His jersey is yet to have a number sewn on the back. Yet his apathy toward Boston and his new team is already clear.
The former Minnesota Twin humors a horde of reporters looking for some sound bytes as he sits down to tie his cleats (one single, loose knot that practically unties on its own).
A local writer asks the 28-year-old what his past impressions of the City of Boston have been when he came to town as a member of the visiting team.
“I don’t know…I’m not sure. We stayed in a hotel and ate somewhere and then came to the ballpark to play. That’s all I remember.”
Asked how different pitching in Fenway Park would be compared to the Metrodome, Bonser deadpanned, “I guess it will probably be different…I don’t know, though. All the pitchers’ mounds seem the same to me.”
Presumably, Bonser is champing at the bit to pitch again after missing the entire 2009 season while recovering from surgery to repair tears in his labrum and rotator cuff. But if this is the case, he isn’t showing it.
“I’m just trying to take it slow, build my arm strength and re-establish rhythm in my delivery,” he shrugs.
When a television reporter inquires about whether Bonser has purchased a home in one of Boston’s leafy, scenic suburbs, the pitcher says he doesn’t care where he lives since he spends half the season on road trips. According to team sources, salary negotiations were alarmingly easy, with Bonser hastily scribbling his name on the $650,000 contract for 2010 as though it were a nuisance.
In a clubhouse packed with fiery guys and bulldog attitudes, Bonser’s trademark dispassion and indifference will undoubtedly be a change of pace this season. It is a demeanor the Red Sox knew was built into the price of acquiring Bonser from the Twins for a player to be named.
“I think people around the league recognize the apathy that this guy brings to the park every day,” says a former teammate from Minnesota. “But I don’t think fans can truly grasp its magnitude until he’s on their team. There is just absolutely nothing burning inside this guy’s gut. I’ve never seen him pump his fist on the mound in the three years I played behind him. When we lost to the Athletics in the 2006 playoffs, he just packed up his stuff and went home…Unbelievable.”
With the passion and intensity of fellow newcomer John Lackey well documented, Bonser’s calm demeanor will almost certainly stand out. At the very least, he will need to get his fill from the clubhouse food spread before Josh Beckett overturns the taco station after a bad outing.
A Twins trainer who worked closely with the pitcher concurred. “Boof’s heart rate barely reaches light aerobic levels even during tight situations. There will be games when the bullpen coach will literally have to wake him up so he can begin warming up.”
To say Bonser is easygoing would be an understatement. He says his friends officially changed his name from John Paul to his nickname, Boof, in 2001 as a prank. But the joke fell flat and the pitcher didn’t even notice people were referring to him by a different name until sometime in 2004. “I haven’t gotten around to changing my name back. I don’t really pay attention to what people call me. Honestly, what does it matter?”
With training camp’s official start days away, Bonser appears similarly unaffected by his presumed status as a long reliever. He is unperturbed that he has been excluded in pre-camp discussions about the fifth starter spot, widely believed to belong to either Clay Buchholz or Tim Wakefield (should someone get hurt).
“Whatever happens, happens. I’ll do whatever they tell me to do.”