|Terry Francona on hiring Curt Young: ‘We really caught a break here’||11.02.10 at 4:07 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona made no secret of the fact that it was going to be difficult to replace pitching coach John Farrell once he left Boston to become the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. Not only was Farrell a close friend, but he was also a valued source of council in whom Francona had virtually complete confidence to manage the pitching staff.
But Francona recognized that it was all but certain that, after four years of having Farrell as his pitching coach, he would lose him this offseason. Farrell was going to depart to become a manager somewhere else, leaving a void.
And so, down the stretch of the regular season, Francona — with the assistance of Farrell — began drawing up a list to identify the ideal person to serve as the next Red Sox pitching coach. Both men came up with the same name atop their lists: Curt Young.
It was unclear whether the pitching coach of the Athletics would be available, however. Young had longstanding roots in the Oakland organization (22 years as a player and coach). Moreover, he was highly valued for the quality of his work, as Athletics pitchers had a 4.03 ERA (tops in the American League) in Young’s seven years as pitching coach, and an AL-leading 3.58 mark in 2010.
“I did an exercise on my own where I looked at internal candidates and external candidates throughout the game just to be prepared. Then I asked John Farrell to do the same. We both came up with Curt as the No. 1 choice for the Boston Red Sox for a lot of different factors,” said Francona. “This was an important hire. Losing John Farrell was a big deal. Getting Curt Young is a big deal and we’re really excited.”
The Sox, Francona said, were unsure whether that opportunity would present itself. They had other external candidates, as well as a pair of internal candidates whom they regarded very highly in Mike Cather and Ralph Treuel. (For more on them, click here.)
But Young decided last two weekends ago that he wanted to pursue opportunities outside of the A’s, and informed Oakland that he would not be returning for the 2011 season. He talked with Sox GM Theo Epstein last week, and that conversation — as well as his experience with Francona, who he got to know when both were in Oakland, Francona as a bench coach and Young as a minor-league pitching coach — his decision was all but made.
“Really, just the opportunity to talk to Theo out here in Arizona, and get an understanding of what they’re looking for and the type of pitchers they have was very exciting for me to be a part of,” said Young. “Knowing Terry, and the respect you have for him across the field, what a great job he does, it was definitely something that I could not pass on once I had the opportunity.”
Young will now set about the business of trying to learn as much as he can about his new pitching staff. He will benefit in that undertaking from the fact that he oversaw continued success across plenty of turnover while in Oakland.
The 50-year-old, who was a pitcher for the powerhouse A’s teams of the late-1980s, worked with a few different groups of dominant pitchers in Oakland, starting with the trio of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito at the start of his Oakland tenure, turning over to Joe Blanton, Rich Harden and Dan Haren in the middle and then concluding with the current group of Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez. The A’s rotation this year had a 3.47 ERA, lowest by an American League team since 1990. Those experiences, he believes, will prepare him for the task of working with the combination of young and veteran pitchers in Boston.
“It’s good for myself that I started with Mulder and Hudson and Zito,” said Young. “I got to see how veterans do things. You know what you want to see out of young guys as you go along the process, and I think that’s really been a big help. Getting a chance to work with Ben Sheets this year, a veteran, everybody in their own form needs help and looks for help, and I’m going to be the one that’s there for them.”
Young will soon touch base with Farrell to discuss the Sox pitching staff, and learn about what works with its members. It is a task for which Young is excited, and that the Sox are equally enthusiastic about him participating in.
“We really caught a break here. We got a really good pitching coach,” said Francona. “I’m excited for that. I’m pleased because our expectations are always high, and we got a really good guy for the job.”
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