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Epstein on team: Red Sox could ‘get dangerous in a hurry’

09.23.11 at 6:09 pm ET
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Manager Terry Francona says he isn't demanding that Sox GM Theo Epstein trade for anyone. (AP)

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein discussed the state of his team - and his relationship with manager Terry Francona - on Friday. (AP)

NEW YORK — Red Sox GM Theo Epstein took stock of his team’s brutal struggles in the month of September. While acknowledging how challenging it has been to watch his team go 5-16 in the month, he also suggested that what has occurred over the last three weeks is less important than what the Red Sox do in the days and weeks ahead.

Still armed with a two-game lead over the Rays in the wild card race, Epstein said that his team has taken a significant hit, but that based on the team’s turnaround after its poor start in April (0-6 and then 2-10), the Sox cannot be counted out going forward.

“It’s on us to turn this thing around. we don’t have any excuses. We don’t have an excuse in the world. It’s time to step up and show what we’re made of,” said Epstein. “This is a stretch of disappointing play and we own that. We can’t run away from that. It’s certainly not too late. We’re fortunate in a sense that we can wake up and play one good week of baseball and then have a great opportunity in the postseason. It’s time to do it though. …

“We had a rough April and we played, whatever it was, close to .700 ball for four months and now we’re having a real rough September. It’s in there. We’ve pulled ourselves out of this before. We just have to do it in a hurry. … I don’t think there’s a sense of doom of inevitability at all because this isn’t inevitable. If we score more runs than the other team tonight, we’ll win. if we do it the next night, we’ll win two in a row and we’re back. It’s not fated or inevitable. It just seems that way sometimes when you lose a few games in a row the same way.”

As much as the Sox have seen their standing take a hit, from a postseason appearance that seemed preordained to one in which the Sox are trying to maintain a loosening grip, Epstein believes that his club can still turn around its fortunes.

“Everyone gets knocked on their ass sooner or later. It’s what happens afterwards that matters. We have an opportunity to go do something,” said Epstein. “I will say this. Win a game or two in a row here, I do think this team could feel unburdened a little bit and get dangerous in a hurry. It starts with winning one game.”

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS (NON-TERRY FRANCONA VERSION — EPSTEIN’S THOUGHTS ON TERRY FRANCONA WILL BE POSTED SHORTLY):

On the team’s efforts to acquire a starter this month (after the Aug. 31 deadline to trade for players who would be eligible for the postseason):

Epstein said that the team made inquiries about starters (while he did not mention him by name, Mets left-hander Chris Capuano was one such target about whom the Sox made multiple inquiries this month), he suggested that there was nothing currently in the works, and that a trade match could not be found.

“At different points in September, we strongly considered [a trade for a starter], including early in September, when we started to have some holes,” said Epstein. “It’s just such a limited market out there. It wasn’t so much not being able to match up as, the pitchers who were desirable, teams not wanting to make a move that late for a variety of reasons. … Yeah, sure, we explored it, but it never became very realistic.”

On the lack of pitching depth this month

Epstein said that the team’s lack of pitching depth was the byproduct of several factors. From injuries to underperformance, the team was left in a position to rely on a number of pitchers who did not open the year in the rotation. While that is a normal part of the baseball season — and indeed, while the Sox continued to thrive from May through August while getting starts from the likes of Tim Wakefield, Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Miller, Erik Bedard and Kyle Weiland — he also suggested that the Sox were not positioned to deal with the hit to their starters that has occurred.

“It’s sort of a confluence of events that left us exposed. We need to bounce back from that,” said Epstein. “We still have a lot of talent on this roster. We can still win some games. But the things that were foreseeable, we foresaw. We did the best we could to plan around it. It’s not good enough. It’s not good enough — and I’ll own that. We can still get where we want to go. It’s on us to do that.

“You go through the exercises, when one guy goes down, when another guy goes down, especially if they have injury histories. Your backup plans look OK if one goes down, but they start to look a little bit less good if you lose two or three, and four it gets rough,” he added. “But there are teams that have withstood this. There were a number of factors. We had a number of guy we thought positioned fairly well in the farm system to step up and take a more meaningful role, but development is not linear, and it just so happened that those players didn’t develop the way we wanted on the perfect time frame for how our injuries coincided. That happens. That’s baseball. We have to own that as an organization. That didn’t happen. There were injuries that occurred, and we didn’t necessarily match up with the trade market to go and replace those guys. If I had done a better job, maybe we would have had better backup solutions.”

On John Lackey:

“It’s hard to explain. If we could pinpoint a reason, we would have addressed it by now. It’s a number of factors. It’s very difficult to explain. He’s got a much better track record than this. We have to spend a lot of time trying to get him back to what he was.”

On Carl Crawford:

Asked about Yankees GM Brian Cashman‘s recent suggestion that he feigned interest in outfielder Carl Crawford to drive up his price in free agency, Epstein had no real reaction.

“They weren’t really a factor for us, anyway, but we’re going to keep the focus on the field,” said Epstein.

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