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Francona reflects on Farrell’s departure: ‘There’s a reason people want him’

10.25.10 at 1:05 pm ET
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Terry Francona and John Farrell have been close ever since the two were in Cleveland as players in 1988. When the Red Sox manager was able to hire Farrell to be a pitching coach in the offseason following 2006, it was a thrill — both because it would give him an opportunity to work with a close friend, and because of the value he knew that Farrell would bring to the Sox.

The two had four seasons together, spanning three playoff campaigns and a World Series win. But today, Farrell is being introduced as the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, and so Francona will have to brace for life without his longtime right-hand man in the dugout. That being the case, it was a moment for Francona both to take stock of what Farrell meant to the Sox organization and to think about what his departure means.

“The fact that he was there, like a pillar, for four years, I feel really lucky,” Francona told WEEI.com. “I would say every person he’s come into contact with, [he’s impacted]. How many times do you get lucky enough where it’s one of your best friends in the whole world, and someone you respect as a worker besides, you get to stand next to him for four years through a lot of ups and downs. He had a very calming effect and made me feel a lot more confident in what I was doing.”

Farrell’s impact on the organization, Francona suggested, was felt in numerous ways. There was the work with developing pitcher’s arsenals and finding their mechanics. There was the in-game advice offered to Francona. There was the work in developing elite young pitching talents, most notably Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard. There were the personnel decisions that Farrell helped to influence, such as the decision not to trade Lester.

In short, his impact was felt in fairly far-reaching fashion, something that merely reinforced the conventional wisdom that he is one of the few people in the game capable of succeeding in a front office or in a dugout as a pitching coach or manager.

“There’s a reason people want him. There’s a reason we wanted him, there’s a reason Cleveland wanted him, that Toronto now wants him for different jobs,” said Francona. “He can do whatever he wants. He’s kind of a rare talent. He’s good at a lot of things, and on top of that, he’s a great person. That’s a great combination.”

That talent now will become something of a detriment to the Red Sox. Farrell, a man who knows the Boston pitching staff intimately, can’t help but offer the Blue Jays a competitive advantage when the Sox play Toronto.

“I don’t see where it will help. That’s the one thing, I wish he was in a different division. We spend our whole life trying to find ways to win games. To face one of your best friends 18 or 19 times isn’t the most fun. Somebody is going to go home being mad. I hope it’s him,” said Francona. “I wish that was different. But that’s the only negative I see. He’s very deserving. We knew this was going to happen, and I’m thrilled for him. That far outweighs the negatives.”

The Sox, Francona said, will talk to both internal and external candidates. The process will not be rushed, and the manager said there is “no timetable” for finding Farrell’s replacement. For now, the Sox merely know that they lost someone who became a key figure in the organization over his four years.

“I knew he wouldn’t be here forever,” said Francona. “But having him here for whatever time, I think we all felt was worth it.”

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Blue Jays will announce John Farrell as their new manager Monday afternoon

10.25.10 at 10:13 am ET
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John Farrell will be named manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays have scheduled a press conference for 3 p.m. to announce the hiring of Farrell, who replaces Cito Gaston. The 48-year-old Farrell had been with the Red Sox since 2007, previously serving as the farm director for the Cleveland Indians. For more Red Sox coverage, see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

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Lester, Buchholz share Sox Pitcher of the Year honors

10.24.10 at 12:26 pm ET
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The Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America announced that starters Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz were named Red Sox co-pitchers of the year for 2010. It marks the first time that the award has been split since 1973, when Luis Tiant and Bill Lee shared the title.

Lester went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA and matched his franchise record for strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher with 225. He logged 208 innings and made 32 starts.

Buchholz was 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA while logging 173 2/3 innings in 28 starts. Buchholz finished second in the American League in ERA.

Both pitchers had regrettable final starts. Had Buchholz — who was skipped in his final start with a back injury — thrown five shutout innings or allowed one run while tossing a complete game, he could have edged past Mariners ace Felix Hernandez for the ERA title. Lester, meanwhile, was shelled for eight runs in four innings, an outing that prevented him from winning 20 games and that likely proved costly in his late run at Cy Young consideration.

Even so, by nearly any measure, it was a wildly successful season for both pitchers. Both were named to the American League All-Star team for the first time. Lester led the AL with 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Lester held opponents to a .220 average, fourth best in the AL, while Buchholz’ .226 mark ranked seventh.

Lester and Buchholz became the third pair of Sox teammates to claim 17 or more wins in the same season since 2000. Both Derek Lowe (21) and Pedro Martinez (20) eclipsed the mark in 2002, and Josh Beckett (20) and Tim Wakefield (17) reached the plateau in 2007.

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Reports: Farrell offered Blue Jays managing job

10.22.10 at 10:32 pm ET
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Multiple reports suggest that the Blue Jays have offered Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell the job of Toronto manager, with the two sides trying to work out contract details on Friday night. CSNNE.com first reported the news. One source familiar with the situation suggested that it would be surprising at this point if Farrell did not take over as Toronto manager.

Farrell has been the Boston pitching coach since 2007. Prior to that, he was the head of Player Development from 2001-06 for the Cleveland Indians.

His loss would be significant, as Farrell has received raves from Red Sox pitchers over his four seasons for his work to prepare the pitching staff and for his instruction. Under Farrell, the Sox have seen young pitchers Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz emerge from early-career struggles to achieve All-Star status, weathered the challenging transition of Daisuke Matsuzaka to the United States and managed a diverse array of personalities and pitcher types.

The Sox finished ninth in the American League in 2010 with a 4.59 ERA. In Farrell’s first three years as pitching coach, the team had finished first, fourth and seventh in that category.

While Farrell had a contract clause preventing him from interviewing for managerial vacancies in prior offseasons, that restriction was no longer in place this year. Given the chance to interview, Farrell apparently made a favorable impression on Toronto officials.

The Sox, according to a major league source, would likely evaluate both internal replacements as well as candidates from outside the organization if Farrell leaves. Earlier on Friday, MLB Network and NESN analyst Peter Gammons discussed the challenge facing the Sox in having to replace Farrell.

“I think the Red Sox know that it’s going to be really difficult, given the pitching staff, to replace John Farrell. There just isn’t anybody out there right now,” said Gammons. ”I don’t really think they know what direction they’re going in when John leaves. I think they’re worried about this. Very worried.”

The Blue Jays narrowed their manager search from a wide list. Earlier on Friday, according to reports, Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale was informed that he was no longer in consideration for the job.

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Gammons on the Big Show: Cliff Lee, John Lackey and relief pitching

10.22.10 at 5:10 pm ET
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Peter Gammons

MLB and NESN analyst Peter Gammons checked in with The Big Show on Friday afternoon to discuss a number of topics, including the Blue Jays’ managerial search (which appears focused on Red Sox coaches DeMarlo Hale and John Farrell), the Rangers-Yankees ALCS, the looming fight between the two clubs for the services of free-agent-to-be Cliff Lee and the Red Sox’ pitching issues, chiefly related to the bullpen and the performance of John Lackey and Josh Beckett.

For Gammons’ thoughts on the Blue Jays managerial search, click here. Highlights from the rest of his interview are below. To listen to the complete interview, check The Big Show Audio-on-Demand page.

Can the Yankees survive tonight?

They can survive it. Phil Hughes, the one thing about his two starts in the postseason, they were so broken up. There was so much time in between. … He’s made 18 starts on normal rest, four days rest. That’s by far the best he pitched, never less than five innings, very consistent, he averaged about six innings a start. His stuff has looked really short to me in both his postseason starts. Maybe he’ll come out and pitch well.

But if the Yankees have to go to their bullpen, Kerry Wood can’t keep picking guys off every time he walks somebody, and they have no left-hander to get anybody out. Boone Logan has come in twice against Josh Hamilton: double and home run, as opposed to the kid, Derek Holland, has been just unbelievable for the Rangers. Over two nights, I think Holland becomes one of the real keys to the series.

Why don’t teams spend more on relievers? That was an Achilles heel for the Red Sox.

The difficulty is they’re so inconsistent from year-to-year. Arthur Rhodes made the All-Star team in the National League this year. You just never know from year to year. To invest $4-5 million into a setup guy is a pretty scary proposition. You look around at the left-handers, Holland is a starter who was made a reliever here. You look around at other teams. Javy Lopez has done a really nice job. At 43 or whatever he is, he’s finally come up with a sidearm breaking ball. But left-handed relievers are really, really tough to find. It will be really, really interesting to see next year what the Red Sox, as good as [Felix] Doubront was, do you want to put him in relief and make him a middle reliever when at 25 years old clearly he’s a frontline starter.

Will Texas play with less pressure given that Lee is set for Game 7?

I think so. Cliff is so unflappable. I had a friend of mine in Cleveland say to me, ‘Where did this come from?’ This is a guy, when he was pitching for the University of Arkansas, dropped way down in the draft because he was averaging more than six walks per nine innings. People said he’ll never throw strikes in the big leagues. Now that’s all he ever throws.

You can just take all our computers and throw them out the window when it comes to development. Athletes sometimes just find it, and you can’t explain why. I have a good friend who scouts, was very close to Cliff coming up in the Montreal organization, he said, ‘He’s always been this way. He finally grew into that control.’ He’s so strong. … His stretching process is jumping up and doing 200 pull-ups. That’s how he starts every workout.

Hamilton said that Lee figures out the umpire’s strike zone on a given night and exploits it.

It is a part of his game. I thought it was a great observation from Josh. You do see that. … [Pitchers] want it to be their strike zone. Umpires have their strike zone. If you pitch to it, it gives you a much better chance. Cliff obviously never throws the ball over the middle of the plate,which obviously helps. It’s fascinating to watch.

It’s also going to be fascinating to watch what he does with his money this offseason, now that he has the Texas Rangers and their $3 billion television deal and the New York Yankees lined up to bid for him. I think he’s going to stay here [with the Rangers]. … It’s only an hour flight for his wife. I think this is kind of a place he likes it much better than the attention he would get in New York. But I could live on the $23-25 million a year Cliff is going to make this offseason.

What did you make of Nick Swisher’s comments that he’s tired of talking about Cliff Lee?

I think he just doesn’t want to talk about anybody else. … I thought he went a little bit overboard. But he’s a little bit theatrical. Every ball on the inside corner, he jackknifes away and does a little dance. … I asked him a question, next day he came up to me and said, ‘Why’d you do that?’ He didn’t get a hit, he struck out a couple times, but he also had a great 11-pitch at-bat, which I thought might have been, alright, you’re starting to get the strike zone. I think he’d had one hit the whole series. Sometimes when a guy has a great at-bat like that, it’s the beginning of something good. So I said, ‘What did you take away from the game more, striking out twice or the 11-pitch at-bat?’

He thought I was ripping him. … I thought it was an opening for him to say, ‘I’m going to be really good now,’ but he took offense to it. That’s Nick being Nick.

Red Sox fans cringe at the possibility that Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia could be at the top of the Yankees rotation.

It’s known that it’s Chuck Greenberg’s first big move. …  I did find out that Chuck Greenberg is a college teammate of Wendy Selig at Tufts. … I really do think they’ll do anything they can to keep him. The thing that makes it difficult for the Yankees is that, unless they take the [Andrew] Brackman kid, the 6-foot-10 former basketball player from NC State and rush him, the next best free-agent pitcher on the market is now Carl Pavano. I don’t think he’s going back there again. It’s not a great winter. I can’t believe they’d ever trade for Greinke and try to have him pitch in New York. I think he’s better off pitching in Greenland.

Do you think the Red Sox regret pursuing Lackey last offseason instead of Lee this year?

They may. They were happy with Lackey in the second half. His quality starts were good. He pitched better. … Maybe, with a year under his belt, he’ll be more used to [the AL East]. And I think if Josh Beckett bounces back, that will help Lackey a lot, too.

Sometimes I felt there were minor conflicts between Lackey and Victor Martinez. I’m not sure it’s Victor’s fault. Lackey, I’m not going to say he’s stubborn, but he’s definitely focused on what he wants to do. I thought there were times when he and Victor got off on different tangents. We’ll see what happens next year with that.

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Gammons on Big Show: Sox ‘very worried’ about losing Farrell

10.22.10 at 4:38 pm ET
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Hall of Fame reporter Peter Gammons of the MLB Network and NESN checked into The Big Show from Arlington, Texas, to discuss the playoffs, the forthcoming winter Cliff Lee sweepstakes and the likelihood that a Red Sox coach will be selected to be the next Blue Jays manager, with a decision likely being known as soon as tonight.

Gammons said that the Toronto front office is split between Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale and pitching coach John Farrell, with GM Alex Anthopolous advocating Hale and assistant GM Tony LaCava and others backing Farrell. That said, Gammons suggested that the Red Sox are “very worried” about the possibility of losing Farrell, given the difficulty of replacing someone who does so much to manage such a diverse pitching staff.

“I had three people yesterday who are very close to a couple of Toronto people tell me that it was definitely going to be John Farrell. But I was told during the night that Alex, the general manager, told the Red Sox people that he still hasn’t made up his mind, that DeMarlo Hale really appeals to him. He leans towards DeMarlo Hale, and Tony LaCava and other people lean towards Farrell,” said Gammons. “I think you may know by tonight. I think that decision is supposed to be made and they’re supposed to let the Red Sox know by tonight whether it’s going to be DeMarlo or John.

“DeMarlo Hale is tremendous. I’m a huge fan, going back to when he set the record in the Eastern League for winning percentage in Trenton (in 1997) when he had David Eckstein and those guys. But I think the Red Sox know that it’s going to be really difficult, given the pitching staff, to replace John Farrell. There just isn’t anybody out there right now. … I don’t really think they know what direction they’re going in when John leaves. I think they’re worried about this. Very worried.”

For Gammons’ thoughts on why Cliff Lee might leave the Yankees empty-handed — both in the playoffs, and this offseason — as well as the Sox’ offseason, click here. To listen to the interview, check the Big Show Audio-on-Demand page.

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There’s a fourth finalist for the Blue Jays’ job: Brian Butterfield

10.21.10 at 8:44 am ET
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According to an industry source, Blue Jays’ third base coach Brian Butterfield is one of the four finalists for the Toronto managerial opening. Butterfield, 52, a native of Maine who still lives in the state, has also served as the Jays’ bench coach during his nine-season tenure with the Jays. He has managerial experience in the minor leagues in the Yankees’ organization.

Others identified as finalists for the Jays’ job (which was held by Cito Gaston for the past 2 1/2 seasons) are Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale, Sox pitching coach John Farrell, and Sandy Alomar Jr., the Indians’ first-base coach. Neither Butterfield or representatives from the Blue Jays’ organization were available for comment.

For more Red Sox coverage, see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

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