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John Farrell on WEEI: Red Sox wanted to avoid repeat of September 2011; team hasn’t lost faith in Will Middlebrooks

07.31.13 at 3:18 pm ET
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In the event that someone else were to go down and we continue to keep Brandon Workman in the rotation, I think what was relived was Sept. 2011, where starting pitching became short. And given where we are today, we didn’t want to take that risk.Red Sox manager John Farrell, in his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Salk & Holley show, said that the Sox’ decision to enact a three-way deal with the White Sox and Tigers to acquire right-hander Jake Peavy was motivated by a need “to bolster our pitching staff.” He said that the team didn’t know if that would come in the form of a starter — particularly after the market for rental starters was set high by the Rangers’ move for right-hander Matt Garza — but that the Sox were thrilled to land Peavy from Chicago thanks to the Tigers’ late-emerging interest in Iglesias.

“We knew we got a very successful, proven right-handed starter to add into our mix,” said Farrell. “Tremendous competitor. Fearless. Going to be able to put the ball on the ground, got the ability to get a strikeout against a lefty and a righty because of the breaking ball and the sinker that he throws. He’s got a changeup also that he can mix in there. … He is ecstatic about coming into this environment and a chance to compete not only for a playoff berth but also hopefully deep into October.”

Farrell said the Sox’ motivations weren’t related to concerns about whether or not Clay Buchholz would come back this year. However, the Sox do harbor two concerns related to his time on the disabled list due to inflammation in the bursa sac of his right shoulder. First, Farrell acknowledged that when Buchholz does get back to the rotation, it may take him some time to regain the form that made him so dominant to start the year.

“We know there’s still going to be some time before Clay returns to us,” said Farrell. “When people see Clay Buchholz’s name as tonight’s starting pitcher for the first time, people might go back, say, ‘Well, here’s the guy who’s 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA.’ We’ve got to wait and see how that comes back. We fully expect to see a very good pitcher, but to say that he’s going to be midseason form right away, time will tell that.”

Peavy strengthens the rotation until Buchholz returns to form.

Perhaps more significantly, Farrell noted that the Sox put themselves in better position to avoid a situation where the depth of the rotation collapsed, something that happened two years ago when the Sox were without Buchholz, Josh Beckett and Erik Bedard while leaning heavily on a pitcher (John Lackey) whose arm was falling off. Until Buchholz returns, he Sox didn’t have pitchers upon whom they felt they could rely in the rotation beyond the current starting five of Jon Lester, Lackey, Ryan DempsterFelix Doubront and Brandon Workman. Acquiring Peavy turns Workman into a sixth starter, giving the team critical protection.

“In the event that someone else were to go down and we continue to keep Brandon Workman in the rotation, I think what was relived was Sept. 2011, where starting pitching became short,” said Farrell. “And given where we are today, we didn’t want to take that risk.”

While dealing for Peavy required that the Sox give up a young, controllable shortstop with incredible defensive skills in Jose Iglesias, Farrell said that the team felt compelled to deepen its pitching staff.

“I think everyone recognizes you have to give up good talent to get good talent. The need fit all three teams. Jose is an exciting young player. He did a great job for us. He worked his tail off,” said Farrell. “He’s fearless, a great defender and in the series of text messages this morning with him, I know he’s going to miss it here. He’s looking forward to the opportunity ahead, but this is a guy, he knows one way, and that’s the Red Sox way. We’re going to miss him, but we’re also going to welcome Jake Peavy with open arms.

“There’s choices that you can potentially make with players involved,” he added. “I know one thing, there were a lot of people that were a little hesitant on giving up Jose Iglesias because of what we’ve seen. But at the same time, we prioritized the need for pitching and that’s why we’re sitting here today.”

Farrell raved about Iglesias’ glove, but also noted that the team is confident in the defensive skills of both incumbent starting shortstop Stephen Drew and Triple-A shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

“Jose Iglesias is as good a defender at shortstop as there is in the game today,” said Farrell. “If you’re building a team with defense and the strength of the backbone being up the middle, that guy at shortstop is pivotal. We’ve got a very good one in Stephen Drew in his own right, another one waiting in the wings potentially in Xander Bogaerts. The position of shortstop was one of an organizational strength.”

Farrell said that Peavy will join the Red Sox later tonight, at which point the team will sit down with him to determine precisely when he’ll make his first start for his new team, with an expectation that his first start will come during the homestand that runs through the weekend. The manager also said that the Sox are confident in Peavy’s health.

“The trade wouldn’t have been made if there wasn’t a high comfort level with the medical file,” said Farrell. “That obviously passed.”

Farrell also confirmed that Brock Holt has been summoned from Pawtucket to start at third base on Wednesday while also serving as the Sox’ backup shortstop. He dismissed suggestions that the call-up of Holt over Will Middlebrooks was a sign of a loss of faith in the 24-year-old third baseman. Farrell said that the current roster situation is temporary, implying strongly that in the absence of a trade, either Middlebrooks or Bogaerts could be summoned from Pawtucket in the coming days.

“[Middlebrooks] is still obviously in Pawtucket, working through some things to gain that consistency. There’s been some improvement along those lines,” said Farrell. “As we get through today and another hour and a half, and things start to take on a different look — and I’m not suggesting that there’s something imminent — this was the move immediately with Iggy’s movement to Detroit. That’s where Brock Holt is today. He’s in the lineup today, but also the backup shortstop.

“[Middlebrooks is] just gaining consistency. We’ve seen it from time to time. We’ve seen it for stretches. And then there’s also been stretches that we’ve seen that are consistent with what we’ve seen here prior to him going back to Pawtucket,” he continued. “The suggestion that we’re down on Will, just by virtue of Brock’s recall, no. I would not say we’re down on Will Middlebrooks. We know it’s still a very talented player who’s still very much a part of this organization and a big part of it. We’re in a situation somewhat temporarily here.”

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