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Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure on The Big Show: ‘Kick ass and win’

12.26.11 at 6:54 am ET

Asked to articulate his pitching philosophy in an interview on The Big Show, new Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure articulated a fairly straightforward vision: “Kick ass and win,” said McClure, who appeared in 698 games over parts of 19 seasons in the big leagues and who spent the last six seasons as the pitching coach of the Royals.

One of McClure’s initial challenges in that ambition will be to work with a pair of pitchers who spent last season as members of the Red Sox bullpen but who will arrive in spring training competing for spots in the starting rotation. Both Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves face that potential transition, yet their ultimate responsibilities for the 2012 season remain unknown. The remaining moves by the Red Sox this offseason and the performance of the two pitchers in spring training will determine their roles for next season.

That said, McClure believes that bringing relievers into camp as starters can have significant benefit for the pitchers, regardless of the role that they end up serving. Indeed, based on his experience in Kansas City, McClure has seen that the biggest benefit to the pitching staff of a spring conversion project may come to the bullpen.

As a Royals pitching coach, McClure had a pair of relievers — Jaokim Soria in 2007 and Kyle Farnsworth in 2010 — who produced tremendous seasons after spending spring training in the rotation.

Soria was stretched out in 2007, in his first spring training with the Royals after being pilfered from the Padres in the Rule 5 draft. He went on, in his rookie season, to post a 2.48 ERA with 75 strikeouts and 19 walks in 68 innings, quietly laying the groundwork for his emergence as one of the top closer’s in the game.

In 2010, Farnsworth was coming off of four straight seasons with ERAs of 4.36 or higher. In 2010, he was hit around (7.02 ERA) while being stretched out in six appearances and 16 2/3 innings as a starter. However, once the 2010 season began, Farnsworth produced his best season in years, with a 3.34 ERA, 61 strikeouts and 20 walks in 64 2/3 innings over 60 games (the last 20 of which came with the Braves following a mid-season trade).

That 2010 season served as an apparent springboard for Farnsworth to resurrect his career. After his successful 2010 season, he signed with the Rays and emerged as their closer in 2011, posting a 2.18 ERA with 51 strikeouts and just 12 walks in 57 1/3 innings.

For both Soria and Farnsworth, McClure suggested that starting in spring training was directly related to their success out of the bullpen.

“The two guys that you’€™ll know who we did it with both ended up in the ‘€˜pen, but both could have started, delivery-wise, is Joaquim Soria, who we took all the way up to five innings in spring training before we started backing him off and put him in the ‘€˜pen, but he could have started the year as a starter. There’€™s no question in my mind. And the other one was Kyle Farnsworth,” McClure said. “He began working on a changeup and a two-seamer, which we’€™d worked on at the end of the year, the year before. When he came into spring training, I think we got him all the way up to four, five innings also.

“I think it made him a better pitcher. He had more pitches. He was more comfortable with runners on. We worked on his pickoff move. We worked on holding runners. I think all of those things, combined, made him overall a better pitcher. I think it relaxed him more. I think that he had more weapons to get the hitter out with. I think the same thing will happen with Bard. He already has all the pitches.”

To listen to the complete interview, click here.

Read More: alfredo aceves, bob mcclure, Daniel Bard, Joakim Soria
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