John Farrell on D&C: Red Sox players plan to ‘stay hungry, stay determined’
|02.19.14 at 10:30 am ET|
Red Sox manager John Farrell stopped by for a visit with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning at spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
“I think that was probably born out of an ongoing text messaging that has not stopped since Game 6 of last season,” Farrell said. “Guys stayed in contact. There were probably 15 guys, from what I’ve come to understand, 15 guys that were in touch with one another daily. So, when it shifted from the celebration of what took place in 2013, at some point along the line it morphed into, hey, what’s done is done. And that’s the beauty of this group. Their attitude is, come down here, stay hungry, stay determined, drive to really do something potentially special.”
That said, Farrell has plenty of other concerns heading into a new season.
“Because of what we do, and I’m sure that you can probably say the same about your own work, there’s a lot of things that keep you up at night because you care. We’re going to filter in two young guys up the middle right now. If we were going to start opening day tomorrow with Jackie Bradley in center field and Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, we’ve got those two young guys to transition at everyday positions. Yeah, sitting here today, so different from a year ago. Whether or not some natural motivation is removed, I would say no, it’s not. But we can’t just assume that and it’s back to the building block approach of spring training to prepare for 2014.”
Farrell and the players avoided turning the focus on themselves this offseason, something Farrell noted helps in transitioning to this season.
“Last year, incredible run. Great experience. But my daily life hasn’t changed. My routine is pretty much the same,” he said. “And I think if anyone were to do something that focused on themselves, it would rip away from everything that we put together last year. That was about a group, a team, and how we worked together.”
Added Farrell: “It speaks to the people that are in our clubhouse, the players in our clubhouse. They’re genuine. People will ask, ‘Well, are you afraid of complacency, are you afraid of a letdown?’ My first initial reaction is no, because they are genuine. What we went through last year, how they responded, how they achieved, it wasn’t because they tried to be somebody they’re not. They didn’t try to fake their way through anything, they didn’t try to exploit a certain situation for their own benefit. They came together, they worked their tails off, and their chomping at the bit to do it again.”
Stephen Drew remains an unsigned free agent. Farrell said he would welcome him back to the team if a deal could be reached.
“If he were to come back, that kind of adjusts where our plans are today. But the thing that really stood out to us last year, and probably one of the main reasons we ended up being champions, is the depth of our roster. And any time you can add quality major league players to your roster, you’re going to be better off,” Farrell said.
“Yeah, I was on record very clearly in support of Stephen Drew. He’s a darn good player. And if I don’t support or like my players — and I like the team we have right now — but I’ve got to show that support.”
On who would hit leadoff: “Probably Shane Victorino. And while he’s probably performed a little bit better in that two-hole and sometimes in that five-hole, this is about how we as a team can become a top-five offensive club in the American League. That’s what’s going to allow us to be in a position to be successful.”
On where Bogaerts would hit in the lineup: “Right now I’d have him in the six-hole. And that puts him in between [A.J.] Pierzynski in the seven-hole and [Daniel] Nava in the five-hole. And then just a quick look at it, but if you were to go Victorino, [Dustin] Pedroia, [David] Ortiz, [Mike] Napoli, Nava, Bogaerts, Pierzynski, [Will] Middlebrooks, Bradley. You’ve got a little left-right combination in there, you’ve got maybe just a way to stay away from matchups that might be able to extend to two or three hitters. That’s just the first look.”
On the possibility of hitting Nava first: “There are times, absolutely. There could be Jonny Gomes in the leadoff spot, too. I would not rule him out in that spot. He might not be the classic leadoff guy with a stolen-base characteristic in his skill set, but he’s an on-base guy. Jonny Gomes is going to play a pivotal role for us as well.”
On what happens if they face a premier lefty: “All things being equal, all guys being available and healthy to us, we’re going to always prioritize defense. And you know what, Jackie Bradley’s our best center fielder defensively, as we sit here today. That’s not to say that Shane Victorino couldn’t go in a one-game kind of look, but again, we’d be prioritizing defense in center field.”
On Victorino’s defense in right field: “If we’re playing at home, Shane Victorino in right field is as good as we’re going to find in the game. We were fortunate, [general manager Ben Cherington] did a great job of identifying a guy that came in and could play it. And I think he exceeded all of our expectations defensively, particularly throwing a baseball.”
On the players stepping up when teammates went down with injuries last season: “That goes to the depth of the roster that Ben puts together. And we feel good about the depth we have as well. I think that’s when we identify players that would embrace Boston, that would fit into our clubhouse and really kind of change the — I don’t want to just keep using the word ‘culture,’ but that’s kind of what it is. The environment in our clubhouse was one that guys bought into a team. They bought into a team concept. They played for something bigger than themselves. And they love to work. We did not lose more than three games at one point in time during the year. That was for a couple of reasons: a strong starting rotation, and a willingness and a worth ethic of this group that was second to none.”
On if there were any clubhouse issues last season that didn’t become public: “I think any time you upwards of 45, 48 players that are going to come through that door at any point in time during the year over the course of six, seven, eight months, there’s going to be some things that pop up. What we tried to set from the first day of spring training last year is that if something does come up, we’re going to handle it internally, behind closed doors. That doesn’t mean we’re just going to brush it under the rug and let it go by. We’ve got to, and did, address some things and kept it at that.”
On if Clay Buchholz can hold up for an entire season: “Oh, I think he will. Has he been the most durable starter for us? No, he has not. But I tell you what: The innings that he does pitch are probably as good as you’re going to find in baseball. And you know what? We’ll work with that. But he’s come into spring training, I tell you right now: He’s thrown a couple of bullpens, he’s looked solid, the shoulder strength is back to normal levels. Yeah, durability is something we continue to work at with him.”
On preparing the pitchers for this season: “The thing that has probably changed initially is how we’re going to get to Opening Day. Typically you’d get six starts in a given spring training. We’re cutting that back by one just to give a little bit more of a buildup time for particularly [Jon] Lester, [John] Lackey and because Buchholz is coming off the shoulder situation, we’ll give them five starts. That’s still going to allow them to get to 90, 95 pitches before Opening Day. But you know what? Once the bell rings, we’re about winning. You’re not going to just run a guy into the ground, but at the same time, we can’t baby step our way into the start of the season. People say, well, how are you going to defend [the title]? I don’t look at it defending; we have to go get it again. And that’s a drastically different mindset.”
On Pierzynski adapting to the pitching staff: “He’s been around the league, so he’s faced them, at least at the plate. So he has an idea of what their stuff is. But the time spent, the conversations that will take place and the opportunities to catch each starter and each pitcher on a projected 12-man staff in camp will exist. But as much as the repetition in between the lines, it’s going to be the conversation in the clubhouse, where, ‘OK in certain situations, this is what I’d like to go to.’ ‘What’s the one pitch that gets your deliver back in sync?’ Those are all things that will evolve through conversations.”
On why the clubhouse is so strong and appealing to free agents: “Look no further than those players in uniform. They look around, they want to play with guys they respect, that they care for, that they like. They talk about one another as brothers, whether it’s bonded by a beard or whether it’s bonded by going out and competing every night. That’s what draws players. One, they’ve got a chance to win every single year. Two, they’re doing it with a group of talented guys that care for one another. And when you combine those things, yeah, this is a very desirable place to be. And why wouldn’t it? This is an incredible stage to play the game of baseball on — historic, it’s going to always be a team that is going to be equipped with the best players that resources can provide. We’re in a fortunate situation.”
On Middlebrooks: “You look at Year 1, where he kind of broke on the scene, big splash, a lot of home runs. Last year, a couple of things kind of challenged him and derailed it, time in the minor leagues. I think he was humbled, as this game will do for everyone. He’s learned a lot about himself. And watching him in the early workouts here — he’s been down here for a couple of weeks already — he is primed and ready to go. And when you consider the production that we had over the course of the whole year last year from third base, that is a position that we can take a big step forward in.”
On Bogaerts’ potential: “He’s got everything that you’re looking for in a front-line player. To put any label, comparison I think is probably unjust for Xander. I’ll tell you what, though: Early workouts he’s looked very good. I think he’s grown probably an inch. We’re talking about still a kid who’s 21 years old, he’s still in his growing spurt. And the work he’s doing with Brian Butterfield at shortstop, he’s showing very good range, first-step quickness or explosiveness is improving. Because there was a lot of talk: Is he going to grow out of the position? What’s his ultimate ceiling, for lack of a better word. And you know what? There’s no reason why we don’t think he doesn’t play shortstop every day.”
On Koji Uehara, and the signing of former Cardinals closer Edward Mujica as insurance at closer: “Mujica, again, premier strike-thrower, closer experience, alternate in case of something happening to Koji. If Koji’s not here last year, we’re not talking about last year, based on the injuries to other two guys in [Andrew] Bailey and [Joel] Hanrahan. Koji, you know what? He, [Junichi] Tazawa and [Craig] Breslow, and Mujica to a lesser extent, we’re going to bring them [along more slowly], make their first appearances a little bit later in spring training. The one thing Koji was very adamant about is to pitch to keep his arm in shape. And boy, did he ever. He stayed healthy, he answered the durability question. And his bullpens right now, it doesn’t look like he’s taken any time off with the way he’s throwing the baseball. He’s our closer.”
On Grady Sizemore: “We’re probably reserving any thoughts on that until we get through spring training. He’s had no issues with the knees. He’s on the field every single day. He’s probably going to learn about himself in this spring training because of the time he’s missed. And if that means he’s ready to go Opening Day or if he needs additional at-bats somewhere before he gets going, time will tell. Time will tell. This is a great risk-reward signing in Grady Sizemore. If he’s able to stay healthy, which we feel our medical staff will keep him on the field, this has got a chance to be a good story.”
On new Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka: “I’m looking forward to seeing him throw. Hopefully we get a chance in spring training to see him. We’re ultracompetitive, we all are. Rivalry, no rivalry, whatever it is. But I think deep down we’re all fans of the game. And when you see a guy that comes to the States as Tanaka has with a lot of the credibility and what he’s done over in Japan, we’re looking forward to seeing him on the mound.”
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