Theo and Tito look ahead to 2010
|10.12.09 at 2:34 pm ET|
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and his skipper Terry Francona, less than 24 hours after their team was shown the postseason door by the Los Angeles Angels, addressed a room full of about 50 reporters and nine TV cameras about what went wrong after 95 wins in the regular season and what to expect in 2010.
Here are some of the bullet points from Monday’s session in the Fenway Park media room.
Red Sox have given permission to the Astros to speak with first base coach Tim Bogar and bench coach Brad Mills for their managerial vacancy. Pitching coach John Farrell expressed to the Red Sox that he still wants to stay but Epstein will meet with him to make sure he still is not interested in the Cleveland job.
Francona said he is having a hard time dealing with elimination. But he physically feels fine.
Francona said Mike Lowell will likely feel better in ’10 according to medical staff. “I think they’re confident that he will be better next year.”
Epstein said Tim Wakefield will have surgery this week and he is in Red Sox plans in 2010.
Alex Gonzalez indicated he would like to return to Boston next year and Epstein indicated the Red Sox are open to picking up the option. “That certainly is one way we could go.”
Epstein indicated optimism in re-signing free agent Jason Bay. “It’s unusual. Epstein said of the talks between the Sox and Bay. “I still feel core elements are in place we still want Jason Bay on Red Sox and he wants to be on Red Sox.”
Epstein said the free agent market isn’t the greatest. “I think we have some flexibility. Not world’s greatest free agent market.”
Epstein on David Ortiz. “We need him to be a force.”
Epstein said he hasn’t talked to Jason Varitek about his role in 2010.
Epstein indicated Victor Martinez will catch majority of games in ’10.
Epstein on whether they will look to lock-up Martinez past 2010: “We’ll see. We’d love to see him here long term.”
Epstein said, depending on offseason moves, 2010 could be last run for several core Red Sox players to “make a run” at title.
Here is the transcript:
Theo on the bench: “Some of our bench, they’re free agents. And we’ll see. We’ll build a bench, we’ll be deep and we want to be as deep as we possibly can. When you don’t have obvious upper-level depth at some positions, you have to get creative in how you’re going to create that depth.
“We want a strong bench because we’re going to have some players that come in with some injury questions again. We predict that Mike Lowell will be improved next year, physically, how improved will he be? Jed Lowrie? We’re going to have to have a lot of depth. You always do. It’s never enough but we’re going to try to build up as much as we can this winter.”
“I think it probably says more about the players we had at Portland and the fact that we thought they were ready to come in and fulfill a specific short-term role.”
Theo on Rocco Baldelli: “He was a fantastic guy to have around, just a terrific human being and teammate. It was a pleasure having him here this year. We knew it would be a challenge for him and the organization to balance his health, his availability and his contributions and that proved to be the case just because of what he has to deal with but he always worked as hard as he possibly could to be ready. He always communicated very well with Tito and the staff to let them know if there were days he wasn’t fully available. And in the end, he did make a contribution. It was a shame at the end, what happened, because I think he would have been a bit of a weapon, especially against [Angels’] left-handed pitchers in the first round, that he wasn’t available. We’ll sit down and talk about what the fit looks like for next year, if there is one. It’s a shame that this guy has some of these limitations that are beyond his control but he gets the absolute most out of himself and is a pleasure to have around and a pleasure to have a part of the organization.”
Theo on Ellsbury: “I think it was a very positive developmental year for Jacoby. We made the trade with Coco last winter because we felt he was ready to play every day, ready to take another step as a player as most prime players do, get better every year. He did a good job.”
“The most important thing to start the year was we wanted him to stay healthy and stay in the lineup. He had dealt with some nagging injuries over the years. He did a great job of growing into his body a little bit, learning about his body a little bit, figuring out the difference between just being nicked, banged up a little bit and still being able to play and being hurt and out of the lineup. He did a great job of staying in the lineup.”
Theo on shortstop position: “We’ll see. I think the position was in flux a bit this year. we went into camp feeling we had two pretty good options and looking forward to a competition where a starter would emerge and both of those players ended up having surgery by one week into the season. That threw the position into flux. Alex really stabilized things the last couple of months of the season. We’ll sit down and we’ve already done some of this analysis, but we’ll do a little bit more analysis of supply and demand and then try to figure out what the market might look like before we decide on Alex’s option for next year. that’s certainly one way we could go, is bringing him back. I think we’d all be comfortable having him back here under the right circumstances. Lowrie is an important factor for us as well. this is a young player we really believe in who has been hurt as a big league player. We’ve not seen the type of player he c an be yet at the big league level because he’s been playing hurt the entire team. At some point. The player has to get healthy to be able to show what he can do and to be able to help the organization. I don’t think we can hand a job to him because he hasn’t proved his health yet at this point. But at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sitting here at this time next year, hopefully with champagne and not having one of these post-mortems, but looking back and saying, wow, he really got healthy and proved himself in winning that job or playing his way into a meaningful role. So we’ll see. Now it’s on him. He’s got to get himself healthy and make an impact. We can’t stake our season on the hope that he’ll be healthy. We have to have other options.”
Theo On Daisuke, “We want him to have a really productive offseason and come into camp in the best possible shape, both with his conditioning. Make sure his core is strong and make sure we can notice right away that he’s had a strong offseason of workouts. And also with his shoulder, that he does the shoulder program to such an extent that he’s ready to go out and throw 200-plus innings, and those are things he didn’ t accomplish last year. he did accomplish them in a condensed offseason that we had, late summer. That’s not the time to do it. The time to do it is throughout the winter. That’s been clearly communicated. There will be follow-up and our strong expectation is that he shows up in fantastic shape on Day one of Spring Training this year. I see it as a necessity, not really an option.”
Tito On Buchholz, “My answer is probably going to be somewhat the same as Theo’s because I think we look at it the same way. We’ve got a young pitcher that came up halfway through the season and wasn’t just a good young pitcher. He was a good pitcher. Now, it helped us win a lot of games. I know I said this numerous times because I believe it and I bet Theo does too. Not only did it help us win games, but it helped make our organization a lot healthier. You can take young pitchers and kind of plug them into your future. And like we said, it makes the glass a lot fuller. It’s exciting. When you have pitching and young pitching and they’re healthy and they’re strong, they’re going to get better and they’re going to learn. The game is going to slow down. All the hiccups that they go through, those things, they learn how to handle them.20And the way they pitch, and if they’re good enough, like buck is, five innings turns into six innings, six can turn into seven, and they turn into more wins.”
Theo, on Buchholz, “It’s challenging to put together a starting rotation, especially if you avoid long term commitments in free agency for the most part like we try to do with starting pitching. To look at Lester and Buchholz both in their pre-prime years, they should be getting better. And Beckett and Matsuzaka ostensibly in their primes, that’s nice to have. You can look there and say theres’ 80 percent of a starting rotation that’s under your control and that you can pencil in for next season. I think with buchholz especially, a lot of people in the organization who have worked with him through the years, and buck himself, deserve a lot of credit. His development wasn’t linear. We talk about that with young players a lot, especially pitchers. There are a lot of ups and downs. There’s no such thing as a truly linear development. I think guys who step right in, like Papelbon did a few years ago, that’s more the exception then the rule with young pitchers. It’s important as an organization not to give up on young pitchers when theyr’e down, if they have the talent, ultimately, t o succeed at the big league level. There were a lot of low points where he was someone who could have been given up on and traded at a low point in his value or Tito or John could have said, we don’t want this guy pitching in our rotation. That didn’t happen in this organization. A lot of people stepped up on a personal level to help impact Buck positively and ultimately,as always happens at the end of someone’s development, he stepped up himself to decide he wanted to take responsibility for being the kind of pitcher he could be. Now, he’s someone who, unlike last year, he’s someone we can sit here and pencil into our rotation for next year. that’s a good feeling.”
On Wakefield, “He’s going to have surgery, probably this week. Tom Gill was in Denver with the Patriots but he’s going to schedule today for sometime later this week. Wake is someone that is in our plans and we hope makes starts for us next year and is a member of the rotation. We haven’t sat down and finalized anything. Obviously we want to see how the surgery goes and then both sides will sit down and talk.”
On Ortiz, “Predicting future performance is tough. Obviously that’s part of my job. I don’t think I can sit down specifically and say what he’s going to do. I think the last four months of the season were certainly better than the first two months for him. If he can find a way to prepare himself for the season where he can build on what he did from about June 1 on and then maybe grow from there …. We need him to be – if he’s going to be the DH on this team, we need him to be a force. We’re a different team when he is that force. There will be conversations about what he thinks he needs to do to get back there. It’s important. It’s important for this club, for him to be that force as the DH.”
Theo on catching: “Um, well, I think we made a trade that should address that for the most part next year. Victor is about as good as you’re gonna get. We’re really happy with him on and off the field, his leadership, his offensive ability, his desire to work with the pitching staff. Ultimately it’s tito’s call but we’ve discussed it enough to know, victor is going to catch a lot next year. then we’ll see what happens from there.”
On Varitek, “I haven’t talked with ‘Tek yet. We’re going to. There are decisions that need to be made on both sides. I don’t think it’s fair to discuss those publicly before we get to sit down and talk about it.”
On Papelbon, “I think he set the standard so high for himself that any chink in his armor is magnified. I think that’s true both when you look at his regular season this year, there were clearly some things that weren’t the same. He was dominating, if you look at his numbers. He wasn’t quite as dominating. If you compare it to some year’s past. If you look at his stuff, it was still closer’s stuff but maybe it wasn’t the same at times so those differences were exaggerated because he set such a high standard for himself. That’s the way it goes. Then if you look at the postseason, he’s still a historically good postseason pitcher but the one hiccup that happened yesterday, that’s what will be talked about. He has such a high standard that what happened yesterday really stands out. I look at it20as a really good season from a closer that helped us win a lot of games. But I know Jonathan is going to go home and focus on getting better because he can be better than what he was this year, even though that was really, really good.”
Papelbon hadn’t pitched in tight situation in a while, Tito: “No, no. We were very careful with how we pitched everybody. He was champing at the bit and feeling good about himself. He couldn’t command to his glove side. Everything was across the plate. He threw nine pitches out in Anaheim. The timing was really good. “
Theo on how bargain baseman shopping: “It’s dictated more by the market. I think there’s a tendency on the heels of some of those buy low one year deals not working out to go the other direction and say, we’re not going to do that, we’re going to avoid anyone who is coming off a bad season or anyone who has health concerns. The reality is, you sign one year buy low deals for a reason, because a lot of them don’t’ work out but they provide you flexibility. When they=2 0do work out, great. Hopefully you have an option and you can keep that player for the next year. if they don’t work out, you move on and you have flexibility both during that season and in future years to address needs. For instance, had we locked into longer term contracts that we couldn’t move on from, we wouldn’t have wound up with Victor Martinez and Billy wagner during the course of the season because taking on their salaries is important. We were able to have that flexibility. Yeah, I have a natural instinct to say, let’s shy away from that a little bit. But the reality is, looking at our club, if we want a complement for Wake in the fifth starter’s hole, we’re probably not going to wind up with a front-line, free agent starting pitcher if you look at the market and the nature of the market these days. Could we end up with another buy low, high upside, low risk starting pitcher or position player somewhere on the roster? Sure. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s not going to sink us and we’ll move on. Does that mean that we won’t look other, healthier most consistent free agents, no, of course not, those are always more desirable.”
On Lowell, Tito: “From talking to the medical staff, I think they’re confident that he will be better than he was this year. I think we said, all along, that this was going to be a difficult year. I think we were pretty honest from Day One. There was a time in the middle of the year I sat here and said, I probably wsa too aggressive with him and didn’t help him. He’ll grind it out every day but at what point does it become a hindrance to his performance. I think we saw that happen this year too. I think we all feel, including mike, the medical people and us, that he will be better situated nxt year. now, stating the obvious, as guys get older, where do you balance the surgery, the guy becoming a certain age and another year of a lot of wear and tear? Some of it is hard to answer.”
Arragment with lowell’s playing time? Can that work again? Francona: “I don’t know that on October whatever we need to make out our lineup for April whatever when we don’t know our roster. I don’t know what I would do that.”
Theo on the farm system: “I think the clear strength of our farm system is in a group o f very high ceiling players that we feel great about, most of whom are about 18 to 20 years old, how we as an organization impact those players and help them with their development and reach their ceilings will be a hugely important factor in our success starting probably in about 2012 and beyond. There are good players in the upper levels. There’s not the three or four obvious candidates to step in, guys we’re going to create jobs for this winter. But I think there will be those players in a year or two. Some of that is a function is a shift our first couple of drafts towards focusing on higher impact younger players as it turned out in a longer players. There’s no doubt about it, that did leave a little bit of a void in the upper levels of our farm system. That’s something that we actually dealt with last winter as well because we had to try to create depth where there wasn’t organic depth from inside the organization. I think we’re going to be in that same both this winter. And it’s not our preferred position but it’s the reality and we’ll continue to nurture and develop what I think is going to be elite talent that’s a couple of years away while we try to transition without anyone notiching. If people notice, then we didn’t’ transition as smoothly as we wanted to.”
Theo on Ellsbury: “The next step for him was growing into his swing a little bit, continuing to learn what his natural swing is. I think he made strides that way. I think he swung the bat a lot better, probably more so than the numbers bared out. He swung the bat better in the second half of the season. He started to let the bat go naturally, especially against fastballs, something he had a hard time doing early in the season. He became more dangerous as a hitter.
“For his next development steps, just continue to improve defensively. I think he’s a good defensive center fielder. I think he’s going to be a great center fielder as he continues to develop. I think he’ll grow into more power as he continues to learn his swing, learn what pitchers try to do to him. And with the power will come a little bit of fear from some pitchers and I think he’ll start to get on a base a little bit more. He ended up with a reputable on-base percentage and he made some improvements in that area and I think he’ll just continue to get better and better.”
“I think it could go a number of different directions. I think we’re always open to change because I think you need change to improve as part of the natural cycle in baseball and in life. Sometimes the market doesn’t bear that out. Sometimes there aren’t the right fits, sometimes it’s not the right free agent market and sometimes you end up with more status quo than you want. If that’s the case, if we look back three or four months from now and say, ‘Wow, there weren’t major changes,’ then I think next year will be perhaps the last year of this main group of players, we have a lot of players going into contract years next year, I think it might be one more chance with this group to go out and win the whole thing.”
“If we are able to make changes, maybe that transition we talked about will happen earlier than some people expected. I think it could go one of both ways. I think we have a nice set of about 10 pre-prime or prime players that we’re going to build around and eventually we’ll get more. Whether that happens this winter or in subsequent winters or when that group of really talented 18-to-20 year-olds is ready, that remains to be seen. We’re open to all possibilities. We’ll see how it develops.”
On Bay negotiations affecting their off-season moves: “It could affect it a little bit. You plan for all contingencies. You have a decision tree, if he stays, there’s one set of decisions that has to be made after that and options to be explored and if he goes, there’s a whole other set of decisions. Obviously, the sooner it’s resolved, the sooner you can move on but some things are beyond your control to a certain extent.”
“We had a good bullpen year this year, all things told. Obviously, it’s never perfect but again, that’s the nature of baseball. Things don’t always stay the same, with bullpens especially. You bring back the exact same group of guys and it’s probably going to be a different year. We’ve talked about how reliever performance fluctuates more than any other position year to year because of the nature of relief pitching and the small sample involved. I don’t think we can just rest on our laurels of this year’s pen and say we’re going to have the best bullpen in baseball again next year because it’s the same group. At the same time, this group did a pretty good job and we’re interested in retaining most, if not all of them.”
Back surgery? Francona: “No, I’m going to volunteer for a surgery I don’t need.”
Theo on Martinez: “We’ll see. We’ve thought about it but we’ll have to see how that plays out. He’s a great player and we’d love to have him here. There are always different factors to take into considerations when you have a group or a number of talented players going into contract years, whether you extend none, some or all. We’ll try to look at the big picture, how the off-season shapes out and then we’ll decide who we’ll try to pursue and how aggressively, if anybody. But long term, obviously we’d like to keep him here long term.”
“The Astros have called and asked for permission to talk to Brad Mills and Tim Bogar about their managerial opening so I think there are a number of candidates and we’re proud that those two will be among the group to be interviewed and wish them the best of luck.
“They did call and John, at this point, has [indicated] a strong desire to stay here so we’re excited about that. He’s an important guy to the organization. Absent one of those two guys getting hired as manager of the Astros, we expect our whole staff to be back.”
Tito: “I’m just not there yet. I wasn’t ready to be done. That’s going to be the hard one to figure out for the next little while. You never want it to be over. I just showed up this morning at 11 with my little briefcase that doesn’t have much in it. It was normal time to play a game and we’re not playing a game and I’m having a little bit of a hard time dealing with that. I’m a little confused but health-wise, I’m probably better than I have been in a while.”
Tito: “This job has a way of doing some things to you that I don’t like. Sometimes there’s some checks and balances which are needed. Theo and I go through this from time to time, not just physically but the way you handle things. It’s important to step back when the season is over, when you don’t have as much emotion going on and take stock on yourself, which I know I need to do sometimes. This job has a way of taking a beating on all of us and you take it out on other people. We’re together a lot. That needs to happen too, sometimes.”
Theo: “Before the Indians called, John expressed a strong desire to stay here and said he would not make himself a candidate for that job because of his desire to stay here. They called recently and I have a meeting scheduled with John to complete that circle. But based on everything we’ve talked about, my strong expectation is that he is going to stay here.”
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