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Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen on D&C: Bullpen help a focus as trade deadline nears

07.11.13 at 9:51 am ET

Mike Hazen joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning, and the Red Sox assistant general manager ‘€” quite pleased with the team’€™s success to date ‘€” said there still is work to be done.

Aside from keeping in mind what happened in late 2006 and 2011, when injuries and bad baseball derailed those teams’€™ seasons, Hazen said potentially shoring up what at times has been an iffy bullpen will be a point of focus.

‘€œIf you could pinpoint an area that’€™s shown the biggest inconsistencies, it’€™s probably been [the bullpen],’€ Hazen said. ‘€œThere’€™s been a lot of good individual performances. I think we have a really solid core at the back end of the bullpen. Guys have stepped into certain roles. Andrew Bailey‘€™s been very good lately. Andrew Bailey is going to be a huge piece of what’€™s going to happen going forward with us.

‘€œThere’€™s a core there that’€™s really good. The front side of that bullpen, I think we’€™re going to explore ‘€” whether it’€™s internal options, like you saw last night with [Brandon] Workman, [Pedro] Beato, [Jose] De La Torre, those guys ‘€” whether one or two of those guys step into that role, or we go external. And that’€™s something that we’€™re going to definitely flesh out over the next few weeks.’€

Even with some question marks in the relief corps, Hazen likes his ‘€œmotley crew’€ of a team ‘€” really, really likes it. He pointed to everything from the coaching staff’€™s day-to-day preparation to the back end of the rotation to the offense that has, on many occasions, carried the team.

He also spoke to the importance of the team’€™s ‘€œcharacter,’€ one of the 2013 Red Sox’€™ most discussed narratives.

‘€œCharacter doesn’€™t win you baseball games,’€ Hazen said. ‘€œBut character helps on days when you lose three in a row facing Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver, and you have to go up against another All-Star in [Hisashi] Iwakuma, and you have to go out and play that day and you’€™re down 5-1 in the second inning.

‘€œIt’€™s easy in that type of game to think, ‘€˜Oh, man, here we go again.’€™ But when you have older, veteran players sitting in the dugout, looking at some of the younger guys saying, ‘€˜Hey, kid, can you relax a little bit here? We have eight innings to play.’€™ ‘€

Hazen agreed with the hosts that the key to sustained success could be as simple as players who have been underperforming picking up their game in addition to those with strong first halves continuing to play well.

Jose Iglesias is in that second group. Hazen said one reason Iglesias has made such a big jump is because he has been more aggressive and attacking fastballs, particularly early in counts. The change came during spring training.

‘€œAs he was coming up as a minor league player ‘€” and we do this with a lot of players ‘€” we’€™re talking plate discipline, we’€™re teaching the ability to get on base. We value that as a skill, and I think this team embodies that at the major league level,’€ Hazen said. ‘€œHaving said that, not every player fits into that box. Every player can’€™t necessarily make those adjustments. We still try with every minor league player to make some of those adjustments. I don’€™t think that worked for Jose Iglesias, and that’€™s our fault. We probably should’€™ve recognized it a little bit quicker.’€

Will Middlebrooks, meanwhile, has had the opposite experience. Despite Middlebrooks’€™ major league struggles and demotion last month to Triple-A Pawtucket, Hazen said the organization still views him as the third baseman of the future.

‘€œThere’€™s too much talent there. He had a rough go at it in his second go-around in the league, and that’€™s going to happen. That’€™s happened to a number of our players, and I think that’€™s what gives us confidence here,’€ Hazen said, citing Clay Buchholz and Iglesias in particular. ‘€œWe very much believe in this guy. He just has to go down and get some things straightened out, and really, if this guy’€™s able to right the ship, come back and help us in the second half, that’€™s a huge boost for us. That’€™s another trade we don’€™t have to make.’€

To listen to the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

Read More: Andrew Bailey, jose iglesias, mike hazen, Will Middlebrooks
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