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Familiarity breeds a bench coach, not contempt: John Farrell tabs Torey Lovullo

10.26.12 at 3:51 pm ET
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John Farrell (center) and Torey Lovullo (right) have known each other since 1993. (AP)

In 2012, the relationships between Bobby Valentine and his coaching staff were plagued by any number of issues. At times, it seemed as if there was a veritable Cold War between the Red Sox manager and those who served under him.

In the case of Valentine’s relationship with his bench coach, Tim Bogar, there wasn’t a strong past relationship between the two. Nor, for that matter, did Valentine have a prior relationship with one of the other candidates he interviewed for the position of bench coach, Torey Lovullo — a fact that Lovullo addressed directly with Valentine when the two talked last December.

“I was going to expect Bobby to define my role as best as he possibly could prior to jumping into the fire. I was going to ask plenty of questions and jump into it with eyes wide open,” said Lovullo of his interview with Valentine. “That’s what I explained to him, that he was going to have to lead the way a little bit and show me what his expectations were.”

The need to have those conversations to define the role of bench coach formally won’t be necessary for Lovullo this year. Nor will it be necessary for Lovullo to go through the process that was so challenging for Bogar, chiefly that of building a relationship with the manager under whom he’s working.

The 47-year-old Lovullo was introduced as the Red Sox bench coach on Friday, but in this case, no introduction was necessary with his boss. He’s being reunited with a manager with whom he has tremendous familiarity. Lovullo is the first hire on the coaching staff of John Farrell, with whom Lovullo was teammates in the big league in 1993 (Angels) and in the minors in 1995 (Triple-A Buffalo). He then spent 2002-06 managing in the Indians farm system, at a time when Farrell was director of player development.

It was during that stretch that an idea crossed Farrell’s mind.

“I do recall a conversation we had in Kinston (the High-A Carolina League team that Lovullo managed in 2003-04) one night,” remembered Farrell. “I would always enjoy coming in and talking with him about the game after the game that night. I remember one night saying to him something about, ‘Hopefully maybe one day I’m your pitching coach or working with you, doing something together, at the big league level.’ And here we are today talking about just that very situation.”

The two had also worked together in 2010, when Farrell was the Red Sox pitching coach and Lovullo managed Triple-A Pawtucket, and over the past two years in Toronto, where Farrell — in his capacity as manager — had Lovullo on his staff as a first-base coach. The conversations over those two years made Lovullo’s fit as Farrell’s bench coach in Boston entirely evident.

“There’s a lot of experience, a lot of interaction along the way that make this a very comfortable and natural relationship, which I think is going to be important in that dugout,” said Farrell.

“The relationship we formed was pretty unique,” added Lovullo. “I think we developed a natural confidence in one another. I can look over at John and at times get a feel from just watching some of his reactions to what he’s thinking and what he’s doing. That will be an advantage for me in being in the dugout with him and I think we’ll be able to challenge one another. I think we’ll be able to inspire one another. It will be my job to sit there and think like he is, to the best of my ability. That relationship that we’ve had over the years is going to be a natural fit for us to move forward in that area.”

A few elements discussed by Lovullo and Farrell hinted at some of the philosophical differences between the two and Valentine. The team embrace a relatively fixed lineup. When possible, they plan to inform players that they will have a day out of the lineup the night before they do so (a responsibility that likely will fall to Lovullo). Farrell wants to encourage Lovullo to serve as a liaison and sounding board for the players.

Farrell also outlined some of the responsibilities with which he’ll entrust his bench coach. Among them: Lovullo will plan spring training and control the running game.

But foremost, Farrell wants Lovullo to serve as a strategic sounding board, and to offer his input into in-game management.

“I think most importantly to all of that are the options he can present as he’s managing the game in his mind,” said Farrell. “What can he communicate to me as situations are either currently taking place or as we anticipate them going forward. So, even though he was the first-base coach the last two years, I can tell you a lot of those conversations already took place either before a game or even reviewing it afterwards. His ability to make decisions in-game and his decision-making overall are one of the main reasons I think he will be a very effective coach on the bench.”

With Lovullo in place, Farrell and the Sox hope to round out the coaching staff in expeditious fashion. While Bogar won’t be back as bench coach, and though sources indicate that he is not expected back in 2013, Farrell said that he remains in contact with Bogar to see if any opportunities exist for him (or any other holdover coaches) on his staff.

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