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Curt Schilling on M&M: John Farrell the ‘best baseball man I’ve ever been around’

04.02.13 at 2:05 pm ET

Former Red Sox pitcher and current ESPN baseball analyst Curt Schilling checked in with Mut & Merloni on Tuesday to discuss the Red Sox’ Opening Day victory, Jon Lester‘s performance and Jackie Bradley Jr.

After a historically bad season in 2012 for Lester (9-14, 4.82 ERA), he got off to a very good start with a win on Monday. He battled through five innings of work, allowing two runs on five hits while striking out seven.

“I don’t know that I would feel any better about anything from that game than I felt about [Lester],” Schilling said. “I thought he had exceptional command. This was everything you hoped to see from Jon Lester at some point during the season. I didn’t expect to see it yesterday.”

In his major league debut, Bradley drew three walks and scored two runs. In his first at-bat, he quickly fell behind CC Sabathia, but in an impressive display of patience, he battled back to draw a walk.

“Everybody that I’ve talked to in baseball that has seen [Bradley] since high school, the one word everybody uses is presence,” Schilling said. “He has an amazing and a ‘game takeover’ presence, and I saw it yesterday. From the first at-bat, going 0-2 to walking, he saw 26 pitches in five at-bats against a left-hander that’s won Cy Youngs.”

One player who did not appear in the Red Sox lineup was designated hitter David Ortiz, who is nursing an injured heel. This was the first Sox Opening Day lineup that Ortiz was not in since 2003.

“I think David is going to be longer than people think, a lot longer than people think,” Schilling said. “I think [Bradley] is going to get a real good chance to let everybody know if he’s ready or not, and that’s truly the test, isn’t it? It’s not a series, it’s not a week, it’s 162-game season.”

Many new names appeared on John Farrell‘s lineup card, including Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes. One of the things that was stressed by Red Sox ownership this offseason was the need to improve the team chemistry.

“I didn’t see anything yesterday that reminded me of last year,” Schilling said. “Nothing. Obviously when you’re winning and it’s in Yankee Stadium, everybody’s smiling. But it was different. It is different. … I knew things were going to be different. They had to be different because [coach Brian Butterfield and Farrell] are personalities that will demand it to be different. I didn’t know how different it would be because the players have to buy in. Yesterday told me in no uncertain terms, the players have bought in.”

Schilling also discussed the immediate improvement that the team has seemed to acquired in Farrell, who is taking over after Bobby Valentine led the team to a 69-93 record last season.

Schilling said: “Last year — there’s no reason to beat around the bush — they didn’t want Bobby to manage that team; the players came out and said it. Now, whether that’s fair or right or wrong or whatever, that was the way it was. They didn’t want him managing the club. How much say you allow players to have, that’s on ownership. But everything started on the wrong foot last year. And my biggest beef with Bobby was I thought that nine out of the 10 problems that happened, he made, he created. John Farrell is not going to make problems in the media. That much I know.

“And I’ve talked about this, and people that know me know, I have probably as much respect for [Farrell]. He is the best baseball man I’ve ever been around in the game, and it’s for one reason: communication. He’s the best communicator I’ve ever been around — in sports, in business, anything. In baseball now, to me, managing a baseball team, 99 percent of your responsibility is communication. It’s not X’s and O’s. You have a bench coach for that, you have a pitching coach to help your pitching staff — and I think John’s more involved in that than most managers — you have a defensive coach to help your infielders. Your job is to communicate with your 25 players and put them in the best position to succeed. And I think he is an exceptional baseball mind at doing that. And I think yesterday was kind of the start of seeing what it’s going to do here.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

On the Red Sox bullpen: “I saw spring training; I didn’t see a ton of the Red Sox. I had heard they put together a good bullpen. [Joel] Hanrahan, everybody likes him. A lot of people talked about it, not just the Red Sox, that he was the guy they wanted to get, blah, blah, blah. I wasn’t ready for what I saw yesterday. I didn’t expect it. I was in a sense blown away by power on power on power. Listen, Andrew Miller probably had the worst day of any Red Sox. And he still came out and did kind of what they needed him to do when all was said and done. If he finds the strike zone, this is the ‘pen everybody else has been building.

“I don’t remember in the last couple of years the Red Sox having five, six power arms in the ‘pen. I remember them having guys here and there, never together. Every arm they brought out yesterday was a strikeout pitcher. And that’s ultimately — after the sixth inning when you’re working your ‘pen in and out of a game, you need swing-and-miss arms. And every one of them was.”

On the Sox’ prospects in the AL East: “I think if there’s any team in the East that can run away with it, that can win 95, I think it’s the Blue Jays. I think potentially they’re the only team that can actually win this division by 10 games. Then you start talking about the Rays. They’re going to pitch, I don’t know how much they’re going to hit. I think they’re going to score runs, but I’m not sure how much. You talk about the Orioles, I think their pitching is far better than people think, but I’m not sure offensively how consistent or how much output you’re going to get from them. I think the Yankees are the one team that cannot win this division. I just think that they’ve been decimated by injuries and I think it’s going to be an incredibly challenging year for them.

“For me, no pun intended, the wild card for me is the Red Sox. Because you start to think about the team, and you start thinking about the offense with [Jacoby] Ellsbury and [Dustin] Pedroia and now this [Jackie] Bradley Jr. kid, they’re going to hit. They’re probably going to hit and they’re going to score runs. Then you start thinking about the pitching. If [Clay] Buchholz is legit, and Jon [Lester] is who you think he is and [John] Lackey comes back, they could end up being the team that sneaks in and wins the division that nobody was talking about in March.”

Read More: Curt Schilling, jackie bradley jr., John Farrell, Jon Lester
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