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Red Sox manager John Farrell: Why David Ross was a priority to sign, and ‘non-negotiable’ rules for Alfredo Aceves

Posted By Alex Speier On November 23, 2012 @ 11:29 am In General | 26 Comments

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John Farrell

Red Sox manager John Farrell, in an interview with the Red Sox Hot Stove Show on Thursday night, touched on a number of topics related to the Red Sox offseason, including detailing the process related to the hiring of the coaching staff, his expectations for reliever Alfredo Aceves, his expectations for the type of lineup that the Red Sox will feature, how John Lackey will be viewed entering spring training and how he views his role regarding work with pitchers with whom he has a history such as Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard.

Farrell, who has made no secret of his desire to implement an aggressive, up-tempo offensive style, also suggested that a corollary desire to shut down opponents’ running games played a role in the decision to sign catcher David Ross to a two-year, $6.2 million. The Sox in 2012 ranked 12th in the American League and 26th in the majors by throwing out just 20 percent of attempted base-stealers (well below the league average of 26 percent). That difficulty in controlling the running game of opponents has been a common theme over the last several years, including Farrell’s years as Red Sox pitching coach:

2012: 20 percent caught stealing; 12th in AL; 26th in MLB

2011: 24 percent caught stealing; 11th in AL; 23rd in MLB

2010: 20 percent caught stealing; 13th in AL; 29th in MLB

2009: 13 percent caught stealing; 14th in AL; 30th in MLB

2008: 25 percent caught stealing; 9th in AL; 19th in MLB

2007: 23 percent caught stealing; 10th in AL; 21st in MLB

Ross, meanwhile, has thrown out 37.5 percent of attempted base stealers over the last eight years, the second best percentage in the majors during that time to Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.

“We brought David in to improve our team. Has he had a track record of being able to throw runners out? Yes he has. But he also brings a number of things that we’re looking for,” said Farrell. “He’s got leadership capabilities and qualities that fit well behind the plate in that position. He’s shown over the course of an entire career to be a very good game caller and to get the most out of pitchers on a given night.

“But on the bigger picture, in the bigger topic that you raise here, going back the last couple of years here [including with] myself as a pitching coach, we were not very good at controlling the running game. We have to become better at that. That will be a main point of emphasis in spring training, and looking back over the last couple of years, finding ways to do just that. It will be, I’m not going to say a hot spot, but a point of emphasis in spring training. The running game has come back to being employed not just in the AL East but across baseball as home run totals have dropped, the running game has become much more a part of it, and controlling it falls much more on the pitchers and catchers to control it and do the best job capable.”

More highlights of the interview are below. To listen to the complete Red Sox Hot Stove Show interview with Farrell, click here [2].

On the team’s likely approach of hiring two hitting coaches: The work responsible for that hitting instructor can be overwhelming at times. When you see the amount of video work that gets done for a given starter on a night, I really feel like the necessity for two guys exists and we’re likely to go with that concept. … Greg Colbrunn has been publicized, coming in Saturday, to sit and meet with him for an interview. Victor Rodriguez has done a good job as our hitting coordinator. I think that pool is starting to define itself a little bit more and hopefully in time we’ve got that final position filled.

On the importance that the team places on grinding at-bats that yield high pitch counts with the new hitting coach(es): A high priority. … The one thing that you raise, the ongoing debate, can you teach that grinding approach? Can you instill that in hitters at the big league level? Or have they shown a track record of that throughout their minor league career and ultimately get to the big leagues? I think hitters continually evolve. Let’s say we have a young hitter who’s had very good success throughout the minor leagues. I think when they get to the big league level and meet those initial challenges, they might expand the strike zone at times but over time they usually settle back into their performance level to level throughout the minor leagues. When you’re looking at a young player and you have to continually reinforce that overall approach — working the count, understanding the strike zone, battling with two strikes, working deep counts with the idea of forcing that starting pitching not only to elevate the pitch count but ideally get to the middle relief group sometime in that sixth or seventh inning, that’s where a lot of games are won and lost.

On contact with reliever Alfredo Aceves: We’ve had some initial conversations. They’ve been brief. He’s been in Mexico. There have been messages left either way, on both sides. To sit down and outline expectations here, I know that’s been done in the past and I know that will be done going forward, but this is also an extremely talented pitcher who can do some unique things from a physical standpoint. I think the one thing that we’re going to hold ourselves accountable to is the way we play the game, the way we respect one another in our uniform and that we work each night as a unit. To tear anything apart or to work against that, I can tell you, goes against all that we’re trying to put together here, not only talented players but guys who are trying to play the game the right way. …

Not knowing it first hand but seeing it and talking to others of what’s taken place, I think that the most important thing is that expectations are outlined with him, and I, for one, [need to] be very consistent with him. There are going to be some things that are non-negotiable. If certain situations arise, consequences may exist. Coming in with fresh eyes on him, being in the same uniform, I certainly want to give the benefit of the doubt to the situation, knowing that there’s some history here, but I think it’s important to be very candid and upfront here.

On his interaction with John Lackey: We’ve had multiple conversations. He’s in Dallas, working out at that API facility where a number of players work out. Will Middlebrooks is there as well. Coming out of lives games pitched in instructional league, he goes through what would be a normal offseaosn program for any pitcher. We’ll initiate a throwing program for the 15th of December and he’ll work, as all other pitchers, with no restrictions, so to speak, as we start to ramp up not only from bullpens to batting practice to games pitched. I think that in spring training, it will be much more clear to all of us that he’ll be ready to go right from the start of the season.

On Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard: This is more about the steps with each of the guys. My conversations with [pitching coach] Juan Nieves are centering around what we’ve seen when we compare video of a couple of years ago to maybe this most recent year, to last year, and you start to build your workplan. The conversations this winter are geared towards that. It’s a way that Juan can start building a relationship with those guys and he will travel to visit with guys as their throwing programs get under way so that when we set foot in Fort Myers, it’s not the first time that Juan has either talked with them or met with them personally. It allows us to kind of get ahead of the curve a little bit because spring training will be a key time for those guys. There are some fundamental adjustments that can be made. I said at the press conference, and this still holds true, they finished the year healthy and they finished the year with quite a bit of talent, and those are ingredients that should allow them to be successful pitchers as they have been in the past.

On how he’ll approach working with those pitchers with whom he’s worked before: The fact that there’s history here, that should not be turned away from, but by no means is that to say that the pitching coach isn’t going to have room to work. … Our working relationship, I look at it somewhat like you’ve got three people handling the pitching side of things — myself, Juan, Gary Tuck. That’s the case with any club. You’ve got the pitching coach and the bullpen coach overseeing 12 guys. To have a third person involved with some history, I think, can only enhance the conversation and outline the workplan to get back on track.

In looking at Red Sox players, who stands out? The one guy who’s come back from Tommy John is Junichi [Tazawa]. To see the way he’s come back from the rehab, seeing him live against us, not only the quality of the stuff but the power to his fastball, his split-finger, all the pitches that he had when he first came over from Japan, he’s more physically mature now than he was three or four years ago. The fact that he’s pitching with no restriction mentally that he might have been feeling with the discomfort in his arm, it’s impressive to see the way he attacked hitter and quality hitters that he was able to dominate at times. That’s the one guy who has made huge strides over the last couple of years.


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