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Ben Cherington on Matt Thornton trade: ‘We found the one that we liked’

07.13.13 at 12:13 am ET
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Speaking on a conference call with reporters Friday night, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington spoke about the impetus behind his team acquiring reliever Matt Thornton from the White Sox for minor league outfield Brandon Jacobs.

How did process of acquiring Thornton unfold?

I think I said a couple weeks ago, we were really hoping to be able to figure out what we needed to figure out internally but then Andrew [Miller] went down, that sort of added to the issue. So we picked up our effort at that point and had a lot of conversations over the last few days just trying to see if there was a fit that made sense earlier in July. Turns out we’ve found one that we think makes sense. There was some motivation to do it prior to the break. We get after the break, back into AL East play. Trying to stabilize and fortify the pen was important. We found one that we liked.’€

How important was the familiarity with pitching coach Juan Nieves, who was with Thornton while serving as the White Sox’€™ bullpen coach?

There’s a comfort level with Juan’s relationship, not just Juan we have other people in the organization that know matt well. Of course he’s seen him pitch a lot. I think the No. 1 thing was just the track record. He’s a proven left-handed relief pitcher who’s been effective in the American League for a long time, one of the better left-handed relievers in the game really for a long time. Had success in the American League, had success against a particular bunch of left-handed hitters that we face and we were looking to give John another option down there in the ‘pen to go along with Breslow, the second lefty.

How will Thornton will be used?

Well, we’ll see. As you said, that’s going to be up to John to find the right match-ups. Historically he’s actually been quite effective against righties over the course of his career. He’s struggled a little bit more, it’s a fairly small sample still. We’ll see. History says he can get righties out. I think what we’re looking to do more than anything was ‘€¦ a guy with a track record from the left side. This is partly about Matt Thornton and a track record of success, a guy that we can feel good about playing in different situations, and it’s also partly about the rest of the group in the bullpen and make sure we’re not putting too much of the load on them.

Have the Red Sox had interest in Thornton before?

Well, you know he’s been pretty good for a long time there’s been interest in the past. I don’t recall us ever being close to acquiring him.

When will Thornton join the team?

We’re expecting he’ll fly to the West Coast tomorrow and be there for tomorrow night

How has Thornton’€™s stuff held up?

His stuff has been really good. We saw him yesterday up to 97 and pitching at 95 with a good slider. You mentioned the strikeout rate and it’s down a little bit from the past but he’s still getting lefties out. He’s not 29 anymore (note: he is 36). He used to be elite, elite stuff, and it may be just really good stuff now. We’re confident he has plenty of stuff to be effective in the role he needs to be in and be an important part of the bullpen. He just needs to come in and be who he is.

Has any decision been made about picking up Thornton’€™s $6 million team option for 2014?

We’ll figure that out after the season. Right now we’re just looking forward to getting him in the mix and getting to know him better. John will use him in a way he sees fit and we’ll figure out the option after the year.

How are you approaching the non-waiver trade deadline after this deal?

I know I said previously you don’t go into July hoping to trade for a reliever, but we are where we are and we’ve had some attrition in that area and when Andrew went down it probably increased our level of urgency. We can’t be stubborn either. We’re in a good position and we have an obligation as a front office to do what we can to help the guys in the clubhouse who are working hard every day trying to win games. We’ll see where it goes. We have some time before the deadline and we’re going to continue to look around and see if there are ways to get better, things that make sense. There’s no specific target right now. We felt like this made sense and we felt it made sense to do it at this time and not wait until the deadline. We’ve got plenty of important games between now and July 31.

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