|John Farrell breaks down the Sox pitching staff on D&H||01.20.10 at 3:17 pm ET|
With Truck Day right around the corner, the thought of another Red Sox season is getting closer. John Farrell called into Dale & Holley on Wednesday to talk about the upcoming Red Sox season.
Farrell discussed Jonathan Papelbon’s offseason and what he expects out of the star closer in 2010. He also touched on the acquisition of John Lackey and what that means to the Red Sox starting rotation.
Farrell was believed to be a top candidate for the Cleveland Indians’ managerial job, and he talked about how he was flattered but decided to stay with the Sox.
“I’m honored to be here, and humbled that other teams would have that kind of interest,” he said. “There might come a point and time in the future, but I think for multiple reasons moving from the Red Sox it was not the time.”
A transcript is below. To listen to the interview, click here.
Are you getting anxious to get the season started again?
It’s usually about Dec. 1 actually. I think this time of year everybody is looking forward to Spring Training and some warmer weather, we’ve dealt with sub-freezing temperatures long enough.
Is it possible that Jonathan Papelbon didn’t know about the Red Sox signings this winter?
Well, I’m not going to dispute what his responses were, but the one thing that makes Pap so affective, above and beyond the elite performer and the physical abilities that we all know, is his ability to not dwell on yesterday and to go out and perform today. The criteria for a good closer is to have a short-term memory and in this case it might be applying in a different way.
Is Papelbon a guy you expect to hit the ground running when you get to Spring Training?
Without a doubt, and that’s the case every year he comes into Spring Training. The fact that he, Manny [Delcarmen], and Ramon [Ramirez] all got their deals done and out of the way, it’s one less distraction that they have to contend with when Spring Training begins. Pap, I know with conversations with him after the season, is motivated. The last outing that he had is a strong learning experience for him. His game awareness and his pitch selection will continue to grow from that stand point. Because of that, he uses it as a driving force throughout the winter not so much that he’s going to come in and make up for his last outing in the first day of Spring Training, but to be a driver and he holds himself to such a high standard that he’ll continue to do what he needs to not only adjust, but to be a closer that everyone wishes they had.
Will he be showcasing the splitter and slider that he used to have, because he didn’t really throw it a lot last season.
Those pitches are still there. The consistency in which he throws his split for strikes needs to improve. There’s no doubt about that. What we’ve seen, because he likes to bury that pitch below the strike zone a lot of hitters read it on the ball right out of his hand, and because he’s become so predominately such a fastball pitcher, any pitch that has a different release or a different type of spin to it hitters are going to take it. Where we’ve seen his slider become a little bit more of a weapon for him. There were times during this past season where he didn’t have his overpowering fastball, he didn’t go to it, but when we look back and magnify the game against the Angels there was a little bit of emotion in there, a little bit of adrenaline that he continued to thrive on and because of it some pitches leaked back over the plate against left-handers. Whether it was [Bobby] Abreu, [Erick] Aybar that ended up allowing them to score those three runs to go ahead, but I think that experience in and of itself will allow his awareness to continue to improve and inside that game situation the pitch selection follows that.
What happened with Papelbon’s command of the plate last year?
I think you have to look at last year as two separate seasons inside of one. There was an adjustment with his delivery in Spring Training to get his legs more involved to distribute the workload and the stress throughout his body more evenly. Which it did. It happened to take away from his overall fastball command. Around the midseason point, in mid-June and the latter part of June, it was a readjustment with his hand position that took him back to a similar delivery in ’08 and we saw his command improve pretty dramatically. That’s where we saw more swing and misses, more called strikes with better location to let his fastball take over. We didn’t make the change because he was feeling something in his shoulder. We went back to a delivery that was pretty evident in ’07 early on, but these adjustments are pretty common place for guys always looking to get the edge, always looking to stay one step ahead of their opponent, but in his case the fastball command in the first half of the season wasn’t as sharp as the second half, which he got back to.
How close is Daniel Bard being a type of pitcher that you could rely on at the end of a game or to close out games, and what is the next step for him?
He’s still a work in progress. As strong as he was last year and the flashes of dominance that he had for pretty good stretches, he went through four to six weeks where he was a strikeout weapon, a dominant power arm in the back of the bullpen, then in the first two or three weeks in August things caught up to him a little bit. He was challenged in a couple of situations where it didn’t pan out well. But I think the most encouraging thing is he showed resilience from a mental stand point to go back out and right the ship so to speak with performances that were very strong after some tough outings. I think we overall we are in such a good position to have he and Papelbon at that back end, to have the ability to strike people out, to shut down a threat late in the game.
Do you and Francona have a plan for how Tim Wakefield will be used?
We do. We have an idea going into Spring Training that I don’t want to say is a complete wait and see approach, but given the surgery that Tim had in the offseason in which he has recovered very favorably, he’s in a throwing program that’s got him out to 120 to 150 feet, which is where all of our pitchers are at this time of year. We want to him to show that when Tim gets on the mound he’s able to take those bullpen sessions and ultimately gain assignments without any extra rest needed. I think as we go through Spring Training we will have an idea of where he stacks up. He has pitched out of the bullpen in the past. Obviously we can’t discount the bulk numbers and the very strong performance he has had for us. We all know that as we plan for a full season, we are going to need seven or eight starters to get through the year. To have six bona fide big league starters is a luxury at this point in time.
How serious were the talks with the Cleveland Indians about their vacant manager position?
It’s a situation like this. I think everyone who is a coach at the major league level has aspirations and desires to take on greater responsibility. I have those, but it became a very simple response to me. I had agreed to a contract that has some provisions in it and when I gave my word and signed to that contract I felt it was important to fulfill that commitment. I deal with a guy in Tito every night, where we think a lot alike about the game. We share a lot of the same values as far as life and the game itself, and I’m also very aware that the Red Sox is a very unique opportunity, and to be involved in this is something I don’t take lightly. I’m honored to be here, and humbled that other teams would have that kind of interest. There might come a point and time in the future, but I think for multiple reasons moving from the Red Sox it was not the time.
What did you say about the addition of John Lackey when the Red Sox were thinking about making a deal for him?
I think we felt that to bolster the rotation was a main goal of ours. John was certainly the head of the class as far as starting pitchers on the market. The fact that we landed a bon a fide bit league pitcher with a tremendous amount of success, a very consistent track record, postseason experience, World Series experience, he fit for a lot of obvious reasons. As time has gone on here in the offseason and getting to know him through phone conversations, one-on-one sit down conversations in Boston last week, his defensive nature and his work ethic is going to fit in very well with the guys that we have on this team and hopefully with this pitching staff. This has been a great addition and it really deepens our rotation one through five, and the fact that we can send a top of the rotation guy to the mound on most, if not every night, I think it a luxury and strong point for us at this point.
Lackey’s reputation of not being able to pitch a Fenway Park is no longer an issue, is it?
No, it’s not. He spoke openly about that when we had a chance to talk. Early on in his career he tried to change his approach of attacking hitters taking into account the Green Monster. When he finally came to the realization, you know to heck with that Wall being over my right shoulder, I just got to go and attack hitters as I’ve done in any other ball park. That’s when he’s seen his success at Fenway come to what it’s been over the past couple of years. It was a learning experience. It’s a very unique envioronment to learn for a visiting pitcher, but the fact remains is that he can’t change his approach that gives him success at other ballparks just because he is pitching here at Fenway.
Have you found yourself telling other pitchers what the proper approach is when they pitch at Fenway Park?
It’s a great point, and it kind of builds off what John Lackey was talking about. Coming into this position and having a chance to talk to Jason Varitek. To the person who doesn’t experience many games at Fenway you would think that would come in to play and even Tek would talk openly that we can’t change the approach just because that wall is there. You have a lot of room out to center field and right-center field that you can use to your advantage and certainly to straight away right field. The line drive that could be homeruns in other ball parks you benefit to that hit being held to a single. I think as long as you stay focused and committed to executing from pitch to pitch, it’s the pitchers that don’t maintain that mental focus that it affects more than the other guys. This is what we have evolved to, with new people coming into Fenway and to the Red Sox, but you learn that it can be as much as an advantage as it is a detriment.
Is there a philosophical change to pitching and defense this year?
I don’t think so. I think every intent is to put the best team on the field day-in and day-out as we can. Because Jason Bay is with the Mets and because we did not sign [Mark] Teixeira, I would not say that our offense is going to be average or below average, quite the contrary. If you look at the addition of Marco Scutaro, who’s a solid big league player, who I think is a solid average to above average offense performer at shortstop. If we can get a little bounce back out of [Adrian] Beltre from what he’s had in his history to go along with Victor Martinez with us for a full season. We’ve got very good offensive performers. With [Kevin Youkilis] at first and [Dustin Pedroia], this is a very solid lineup from top to bottom and when you can combine that with some improved defense, and as long as we can go out and execute like we can from a pitching stand point, this should be a very exciting year here in Boston.
What does the defensive upgrades mean to the pitching staff?
That you don’t’ have to necessarily pitch for a strikeout every time. Not to say that guys are still into that mind set, but I think there were times when guys thought that they needed to get a strikeout maybe otherwise when they don’t. That can be a little bit of catch-22. The pitcher feels like he’s got to do more things that he has to, and usually when that happens, good things don’t happen. We may be playing some closer ball games, where it’s not just a lop-sided offensive game on a given night. But I think you are seeing a more complete player coming back in the fold and a team that is more solid in all three areas: offense, defense, and on the mound being the one that wins out over the long haul.
|Red Sox Notes: What to do with Wakefield?||01.15.10 at 8:43 am ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona, prior to the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner on Thursday, said that he has not considered putting Tim Wakefield in the bullpen. Even though the rotation would currently appear to run five deep with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz, the days when the knuckleballer would be hustled into a relief role seem like a thing of the past.
“I haven’t thought about that a lot. He’s a starter,” said Francona. “How that slots out, we don’t know yet.”
That said, Francona didn’t have a blueprint for Wakefield. He avoided committing to a timetable for the pitcher’s start to the season, though he did put the knuckleballer in a separate category from John Smoltz (in 2009) and Wade Miller (in ’05), pitchers who were held back by months at the start of the season.
“I would be surprised if he’s real far behind, if any,” said Francona.
–While Jeremy Hermida suggested that he is “excited to play some real baseball” now that he has moved from the home of the empty orange seats in Florida to the packed houses of Fenway, his role appears ill-defined. The Sox believe that the 26-year-old retains significant offensive potential, and that he will probably reach it with some club.
Whether or how he might do so in Boston this year remains unknown. Francona was admittedly uncertain about the outfielder’s job description for the coming year.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. Good question, bad answer. He’s a left-handed hitting outfielder,” said Francona. “We could always move Jacoby [Ellsbury] to center when [Mike] Cameron doesn’t play. J.D. [Drew] has missed games in right, we know that. So there is a fit there.
“But I can’t sit here today and say Jeremy Hermida does this. On one hand, I hope he gets an opportunity to play enough because I think he can do some things offensively. On the other hand, if he’s playing everyday, something went wrong somewhere else. But there’s a lot to like about what he can do. But I can’t sit here today and tell you where he’ll actually fit.”
–Francona seemed either amused or bemused that Daisuke Matsuzaka, just a few years removed from being evaluated as one of the best pitchers in the world, has become an afterthought in his rotation. The right-hander, he noted, is just two years removed from a season when, “by hook or by crook,” he won 18 games with a sub-3.00 ERA.
There is little doubt that Matsuzaka’s 2009 season, when he went 4-6 with a 5.76 ERA in just 59.1 innings, represented a profound disappointment, not just for his numbers and his lack of availability but also due to his ideological clashes with the team over proper forms of preparation. But ultimately, the team believes that both the pitcher and his club will benefit from the pitcher’s pride to prove that he is still an effective pitcher.
“He’s almost at times fallen off from people’s thinking. He won 18 games the year before. It’s kind of out of sight, out of mind,” said Francona. “He’s supposed to be pretty good. If he’s pitching in that four hole, or that fourth game of the season, he’s going to match up.”
Sox officials were indeed surprised by Matsuzaka’s claim in a Japanese magazine that he had tried to pitch through a leg injury that caused his mechanics to suffer. But with the pitcher showing the commitment to spend the offseason working out at Athletes’ Performance in Arizona, the Sox believe that they are in a good position with the right-hander, and they are more focused on how he fares going forward than on any head-scratching statements about the past.
–Francona has been in touch with Jed Lowrie, whom he described as “cautiously optimistic” about the recovery of the left wrist that required surgery and sabotaged his 2009 season. The manager believed that the infielder had begun swinging, though it will be difficult to gauge the switch-hitter’s health until he is subject to daily activity in spring training. In some respects, only game activity will offer insight into Lowrie’s health, since he appeared to be recovering well last summer until he aggravated the wrist on check swings in games.
–Francona said that Mike Lowell’s situation would remain unresolved until he proved that he is healthy in spring training.
|Checking in on Wakefield and Chapman||11.10.09 at 11:51 am ET|
CHICAGO — Executives are in meetings all morning here at the O’Hare International Airport Hilton, leaving me in a desolate work room with just my computer and a free 10 oz Diet Pepsi that would have cost me $4 upstairs (no lie).
The schedule will allow for access to all the general managers starting at 4:30 p.m. EST, which will surely spawn a flurry of Tweets and the like starting about 5:30 p.m.
One thing I forgot to pass on Monday was that in my conversation with Tim Wakefield, he passed along what a difference the surgery on his back had meant. He said that the limp which he had been saddled with for the past few months was instantly gone once he could get out of his hospital bed.
“I feel great” Wakefield said. “I’m getting more strength in my calf and my hamstring. As a matter of fact, the doctor came in soon after surgery and I was doing laps around the nurses station with my wife with my IV without limping. It was that instantaneously.
“Dr. (Lawrence) Borges did a phenomenal job. He even said to me that he was surprised that I was pitching because the fragment they took out of my back was pretty big.”
I did run into one National League executive who was toying with the idea of watching Cuban free agent pitcher Aroldis Chapman in the Dominican Republic. (He is reportedly in Costa Rica right now. Ed. Note: Chapman’s representatives clarified that the pitcher is currently in the United States, and has no plans to pitch in the Dominican.) The executive reiterated that while the talent for Chapman was off the charts (95-102 mph fastball), there was some growing concern regarding his make-up, which is not the norm for pitchers coming over from Cuba.
If you remember, one of the selling points for Jose Contreras when the Yankees and Red Sox were going toe-to-toe for the pitcher’s services was that he had pitched in the most pressure-packed of environments under the watchful eye of Fidel Castro and the Cuban government.
The 21-year-old Chapman, who will make a boatload of money from somebody (although maybe not as much as he is asking for), is perceived as somewhat immature, a notion that wasn’t displaced after a drama-filled World Baseball Classic outing. Unlike Contreras, there are conflicting reports whether the lefty flamethrower is even ready to begin his career in the big leagues.
All the concerns aside, with his upside, and the dearth of free agent pitching, Chapman figures to be one of the offseason’s biggest prizes and elicit some more good lobby talk as the meetings march along.
Be back later once access picks up …
|Details of Wakefield’s Contract||11.09.09 at 8:23 pm ET|
The incentive structure of Tim Wakefield’s new two-year deal with the Red Sox is fairly intricate. While he will receive a guaranteed $5 million, the specific clauses could increase the value of the deal to approximately $5 million per season. Here are the details of the 2010-11 deal:
Base salary is $3.5m in 2010 and $1.5m in 2011.
Bonuses in 2010: Wakefield receives $50,000 each for starts 11-15; $75,000 each for starts 16-25; and $100,000 each for starts 26-30. (Max potential earnings: $5 million.)
Escalator clause for base salary in 2011: Wakefield’s 2011 base salary can increase, based on the number of innings he throws in 2010. If he throws 130 innings this coming season, his 2011 base salary increases to $2 million; he throws 160 innings in 2010, he would earn a $3.5 million base.
Bonuses in 2011: Wakefield’s potential bonuses for 2011 will depend on the base salary:
If the base salary is $1.5 million (after fewer than 130 innings in 2010): $100,000 each for starts 11-15; $200,000 each for starts 16-25, and $250,000 each for starts 26-30. (Max potential earnings: $5.25 million.)
If the base salary is $2 million (if he throws at least 130 innings but fewer than 160): $75,000 each for starts 11-15; $150,000 each for starts 16-20; $200,000 each for starts 21-30. (Max potential earnings: $5.125 million.)
If the base salary is $3.5 million (provided Wakefield throws at least 160 innings in 2010), the bonuses are the same as in 2010: $50,000 each for starts 11-15; $75,000 each for starts 16-25; and $100,000 each for starts 26-30. (Max potential earnings: $5 million.)
|Wakefield talks about new deal||at 4:35 pm ET|
CHICAGO — Speaking from his Florida home, Tim Wakefield explained that while there was some initial concern regarding the Red Sox not picking up his option and proposing a two-year deal, he understands the value in it from both sides.
“I was surprised and a little disappointed at first because they told me they wanted to cut my guarantee, but in the long run they’re at least guaranteeing me another year,” he said. “That’s a huge positive because they know I want to break the records and retire as a Red Sox, so I’m very grateful for that.”
The two-year deal Wakefield has agreed upon will pay the 43-year-old a guaranteed $3.5 million in 2010 with the opportunity to have that jump up to $5 million if he makes 30 starts. The second year will guarantee him $1.5 million, a base that could increase to as much as $3.5 million depending on how many innings he throws in 2010, and that will also feature bonuses that could increase the value of the second year of the deal (regardless of the base) to approximately $5 million if the right-hander makes 30 starts.
Altering his previous arrangement — which presented the Red Sox with a $4 million team option following every season Wakefield played in — guarantees that the knuckleballer will be under contract for the next two seasons, setting the stage for him to go after both the record for most wins by a Red Sox pitcher (192) — which he is 17 shy of — and 200 overall wins. Wakefield currently stands at 189 wins for his career.
“I guess a little more relaxed,” said Wakefield of the construction of his new deal. “I didn’t mind going year to year because the reason why we set it up was to make it an easy decision to them, but also giving me an opportunity to get paid a fair amount. It wasn’t about going after more money. We wanted to do what was fair to the organization. Now, that deal was to avoid what has happened the last couple of days.
“I completely understand where the Red Sox are coming from based on the back surgery I had in the offseason and the fact I had some shoulder fatigue in ’08. But it all worked out. It worked out where I think they were happy to cut back on the guarantees, but I still have the opportunity to make almost as much as I did, if I stay healthy, than I did with the original options.”
|Wakefield, Sox Agree on New Two-Year Deal||at 2:23 pm ET|
The Red Sox have chosen not to pick up Tim Wakefield’s $4 million option for the 2010 season; instead, the team and the pitcher have come to terms on a two-year deal. The new contract will pay the 43-year-old a guaranteed $5 million — $3.5 million in ’10 and $1.5 million in ’11 — with the opportunity to earn various incentives that could bring the package’s total worth to approximately $10 million over the two years.
It is believed that if Wakefield meets all of his incentives, he would fall approximately $1 million short of matching what he would have made if the options were picked up in each of the next two seasons. Wakefield originally signed a one-year deal with recurring team options of $4 million every season — a one-of-its-kind contract — during the 2005 season, with the deal becoming effective starting for the 2006 season.
Wakefield underwent surgery on a herniated disc in his back last month, but is expected to be ready to be fully ready for spring training.
The new deal could allow Wakefield to accomplish his goal of breaking the record for most wins in a Red Sox uniform by a pitcher (192), which is currently shared by Cy Young and Roger Clemens. The knuckleballer will enter ’10 with 175 wins as a member of the Sox. He has also stated a goal of reaching 200 wins, which could be accomplished in the coming season. His current career win total stands at 189.
|Options Abound for the Red Sox||10.21.09 at 2:13 pm ET|
The Red Sox hold (or, in some cases, held) options for the 2010 season on seven members of the club. If exercised, the players (in most cases) can be retained for next year. If declined by the team, then the players become free agents. Here is a quick look at those players, as well as the timelines for decisions about the options:
Josh Beckett (team option): His $12.1 million option for 2010 vested when he made his 28th start of the season on Sept. 7.
Alex Gonzalez (mutual option): The club has until five days after the World Series to make a decision about whether to exercise its $6 million option for next year. If it declines the option, it must pay a $500,000 buyout. Since it is a mutual option, if the Sox do pick up the option, Gonzalez would then have two days to decide whether to accept or decline the chance to return to Boston on that one-year, $6 million deal. If he declines the option, he also voids the buyout.
Victor Martinez (team option): The Sox have until five days after the World Series to make their decision on Martinez’ $7 million option for next year. Insofar as G.M. Theo Epstein has already proclaimed Martinez the team’s primary catcher for 2010, it would appear that the catcher/first baseman need not concern himself with the possibility of a $250,000 buyout.
Takashi Saito (team option): Based on his 2009 earnings, the Sox could have retained Saito on a one-year, $6 million deal with a potential $1.5 million in incentives for 2010. Instead, the team attempted to outright him, resulting in the right-hander declaring himself a free agent, thereby removing the possibility of an option. Saito remains open to the possibility of returning as a free agent. Indeed, the attempted outright assignment was done precisely so that Saito could become a free agent who was could re-sign with the Sox this offseason.
Jason Varitek (team and player options): The Sox have until five days after the World Series to decide whether to exercise their $5 million club option on Varitek for next season. If the Sox decline their option, then Varitek would have five days from the time of being notified of the club’s decision to decide whether or not to exercise a one-year, $3 million (with the possibility of another $2 million in incentives) player option.
Billy Wagner (team option): The Sox formally agreed not to pick up Wagner’s $8 million option for the 2010 season at the time that he agreed to waive his no-trade clause. Instead, the team is on the hook for his $1 million buy-out. The real intrigue with Wagner revolves around whether he will be offered arbitration, and if he is, whether he will accept it. As Wagner told Rob Bradford, he anticipates that the Sox will make the offer and he will decline it in order to become a free agent and pursue the opportunity to close elsewhere.
Tim Wakefield (team option): The Sox have until five days after the World Series to exercise their recurring $4 million option on Wakefield. Barring any setbacks following his “successful” surgery today, the Sox would appear likely to retain the services of a player who likely ranks as one of the top two free-agent bargains in Red Sox history.
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