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John Farrell on MFB: ‘I think we would all love to see Jon Lester back in a Red Sox uniform’

08.13.14 at 4:59 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday to discuss the state of the team and the prospects of Jon Lester returning to the club in the offseason. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Sox won consecutive games for the first time since July 20-21 with a 3-2 win over the Reds Tuesday night. Joe Kelly made his second career start with the Red Sox and was strong again, allowing two runs on five hits in six innings for a no-decision.

“The one thing with Joe Kelly, he’s athletic, he repeats his delivery,” Farrell said. “I thought last night he had more powerful stuff than in St. Louis, and when you sit in the dugout, particularly from the third base side, you get a real appreciation for how quick his arm is. Good action to his secondary pitches both curveball and slider, might’ve been pitching a little bit too fine last night early on but settled in.

“I think he’s just a quality right-hander who we’re still getting to know, but clearly there’s a lot there to like.”

Kelly may be the newest Red Sox pitcher acquired, but the starter still most talked about in Boston is Lester, whom the Sox traded to Oakland at the deadline for Yoenis Cespedes. Lester will be a free agent at the end of the season, and has expressed an openness to returning to Boston. Farrell said he hasn’t given up hope on Lester returning.

“I think we would all love to see Jon Lester back in a Red Sox uniform,” Farrell said. “We also know that once free-agent season opens, he’s going to have an opportunity — he’s earned the right to see what the market is going to bear for him. I’m sure there will be a number teams that are interested in Jon. He’s durable, he’s productive, he’s done it in Boston, there’s a great comfort level with everyone here.

“I found his comments to be encouraging. He’s looking for the total package, not just the highest dollar. I think that sits well with anybody who reads it and particularly where he’s spent the majority of his career. We know there’s deep roots here. One of his homes is still here. 

“I think, in the end, he’s going to know we’ll have a strong interest in him, but at the same time he’s an Oakland A right now. Until that point comes that’s probably the most we can say on it.”

When asked if he wishes Lester was still pitching for the Sox, Farrell said, “The obvious answer is I wish he was a guy that was here, but that didn’t come to fruition, that didn’t get ironed out. I thought what [Ben Cherington] was able to do, which was an incredible return for a pitcher who, talented in his own right, is probably two months or three months in one place. And we had to address our offense, particularly our outfield offense, and Yoenis has fit that bill for us. We’re lucky and fortunate and really glad he’s here.”

Cherington told Dennis & Callahan last Thursday that the Red Sox don’t necessarily need to pursue an ace from the outside in the season, and that building from within the organization is an option as well.

“Here’s the thing with that, everyone is going to look at Jon Lester and see he’s developed into a No. 1 pitcher,” Farrell said. “We’ve got guys with the ability and talent to do the same. When you start to label starting pitchers, one, two, three, and then you get the back end guys, the difference between a three and a one are the guys who perform their way into it.

“We know that the cost of pitching is astronomical and having talented guys that have the ability to grow into those designations, those No. 1-type starters. We have guys with that type of stuff here and we’ve got to provide the opportunity to grow into that. But just to say that we have to go out and get a No. 1, that guy is one pitch away from becoming possibly inactive.”

Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to endure a historically bad slump at the plate. The rookie is hitless with 18 strikeouts in his last 35 at-bats and is starting to see his playing time dwindle.

“We’ve backed him out of everyday play, that’s been clear,” Farrell said. “We’re trying to get some of that early work to take hold. I really felt the game he came in Saturday night in Anaheim where we went 19 innings, there were better at-bats in that game.

“The tough thing is we’re not seeing the traction of the adjustments that he’s shown in early work and then are carrying over in the game. There’s still some length at times in his swing and Sunday was a tough day for him. He’s in the lineup again today, but we haven’t gotten to the point where, ‘Are we best served, or is Jackie best served, with having some of these adjustments ingrained a little bit more in Pawtucket?'”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more on the Red Sox, go to weei.com/redsox.

On Cespedes staying in left field for the rest of the season: “Our initial thought was to get him into right field, just because of — and this was before Allen Craig went on the DL — the range obviously projects for Craig to be in left, Cespedes in right field. But the fact is we’re also transitioning two middle-of-the-order-type guys in and making them feel as comfortable as possible.

“Allen Craig’s DL has certainly slowed things down for both guys. When Allen comes back, there is some thought to keep them where they’ve played the most number of games. And even though Allen might not have the same range as Yoenis in the outfield, we may still look to put Craig in right field just to keep that comfort and allow them to produce offensively as they’ve done.”

On Craig’s injury situation: “He’s soon to come off the DL but tomorrow when we get back home he’ll finally go through a full round of BP and get back to more baseball activity on the field.”

On Clay Buchholz‘s struggles this season: “I think early on this year when he might not have had the same two-seamer as he had at the beginning of last year and things weren’t going as consistently at the same period of time, he went to his cutter a little bit more. I thought the other night was the best stuff he’s had all year and we’re starting to see that two-seamer and the action to it be more consistent with a year ago. And I think, more than anything, he was aggressive on the plate with some pitches to get ahead in the count early.

“I think at times Clay can be a little bit too fine and have a tendency to pitch backwards at times a little bit too much and not trust that two-seamer like he can. But I thought [Saturday night] was more vintage Clay Buchholz.”

Read More: John Farrell, Jon Lester,
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