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GM Ben Cherington discusses shape of 2012 Red Sox

03.18.12 at 12:09 am ET
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Red Sox GM Ben Cherington joined the WEEI broadcast of Saturday’s game at JetBlue Park between the Sox and Orioles to discuss a number of topics. Among them, he touched on the state of the competition for the spots at the back of the Red Sox rotation; the outlook for a number of players returning from injury, including Carl Crawford, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill; and his evolving relationship with manager Bobby Valentine.

In examining the composition of his club, Cherington suggested that while a great deal of attention will be placed on the team’s Opening Day roster, the more significant matter facing the Sox is how they are constructed to handle the longer haul of the season given the inevitability of frequent roster changes.

“So much is made of the Opening Day roster, for good reason,” said Cherington. “You certainly want to go into the season feeling good about the 25-man roster, but it changes so quickly once you get into April that what we’€™re looking to do mostly is put together the best team and best depth we can for six months and not get too narrowly focused on April 5th.”

Speaking specifically of the team’s pitching depth, Cherington suggested that the team has been pleased by the early signs from the six pitchers competing for two starting spots at the back of the rotation (Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Vicente Padilla, Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller, Aaron Cook) as well as the pitchers beyond that group. He cited right-handers Doug Mathis, Justin Germano and Clayton Mortensen, along with rehabbing pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill, in discussing how the team appears to be situated for the longer haul of the season.

“The pitching staff on Opening Day, it’€™s very unlikely to look the same two weeks later, three weeks later, six weeks later certainly,” said Cherington. “We feel like we have some good depth there, guys capable of getting major league hitters out.”

Highlights of the interview are below. To hear Cherington’s complete on-air segment, click here.

On the rotation competition: The group of guys that’€™s still in the mix for those spots, they’€™ve all done pretty well. … That group has done pretty well. We’€™ve got some other guys who we think add to our depth. We’€™re going to use the rest of the spring to keep watching and try to find the best guys, but also try to maintain our depth for the season.

On Lars Anderson: He’€™s had a good camp. He’€™s swinging the bat with authority and some confidence. We’€™ve started to move him into the outfield a little bit. … Lars is a good hitter. The reality is we’€™ve got a pretty good first baseman ahead of him in the big leagues and we’€™ve got a pretty good DH ahead of him in the big leagues, too, so we’€™re trying to find some ways to increase his versatility. Lars is, we believe, going to be a good major league hitter. We’€™re trying to give him every chance to do that here.

On Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill, who are recovering from Tommy John surgery: Daisuke threw a live [batting practice] the other day and looks really good. He’€™s well on his way. He should be pitching in some sort of games to hitters sometime in April. Rich Hill is coming along really quickly, too. Because he’€™s a reliever, he’€™ll take less time to get stretched out.

On Carl Crawford: It’€™s just, we’€™ve just got to wait on him. He’€™s chomping at the bit. He badly wants to be out there, but he knows and we know and we’€™re working with him to make sure when Carl comes back, he feels really good and not less of himself. We need Carl to be himself, for whatever amount of the season that is, and not any less of himself by trying to rush back two weeks sooner than is necessary.

On players such as Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller and Michael Bowden who are out of options, thus meaning that the Sox risk losing them through waivers if they are not on the Opening Day roster: It’€™s certainly a factor. Those three guys are going to get every chance to pitch and show what they can do. … One of the challenges in spring training is not making too much of spring training. Those guys are out there competing for a job, but we also have to factor in what they’€™ve done before. The larger body of work going back to last season, the season before, etc., really plays a large role, too, in our final evaluation. That said, guys make adjustments. Talented players make adjustments. One thing that can happen in spring training is a guy can make an adjustment and go from a guy who hadn’€™t really established himself in the big leagues to someone who can. It’€™s our job to figure out which guys have actually made adjustments to allow themselves to do that and which guys are just playing well over a short period in spring training. … We certainly have some guys who are very talented and trying to step up, and guys we’€™ll have to make decisions on.

On the GM/manager relationship with Bobby Valentine: What it should be like is one of respect and complete trust. You’€™re going to have to work together, go through tough times, hopefully more good times than tough times. …

You’€™re going to have to make tough decisions. You should be able to disagree at times and get past that, get up the next day and go to work. That’€™s the relationship that needs to exist and that’€™s the one that’€™s forming. …

We’€™ve had a chance to work together a lot just about every day since we hired him. I feel very comfortable at this point having a conversation with Bobby about just about anything that happens that involves the baseball team. That will continue to evolve. I don’€™t think any manager/GM relationship is fully tested until you get into the season and go through a tough time. We just need to be prepared to do that.

On the impact of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement on the Red Sox’ draft and international amateur free agent strategies: It’€™s something we’€™re still really working on and learning a little bit as we go. We’€™ve studied the new document closely, the new agreement. We have sort of a basic general strategy. … We’€™ve worked hard to try to find ways to make the new CBA work for us. There’€™s no doubt there will be some changes needed to our strategy. At the end of the day, the fundamental thing about scouting and finding players remains the same. You need good scouts. You need good process. If you identify the right players, then over time, you will get a good return and do well in that area. But certainly the strategy may change a little bit because it’€™s a little bit harder to do some of the things we did in the past.

Read More: alfredo aceves, andrew miller, ben cherington, Bobby Valentine
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