Farrell in full preparation mode

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Farrell in full preparation mode

BOSTON Before leaving for Nashville and the winter meetings, which begin Monday, Red Sox manager John Farrell addressed several issues his new team faces this offseason.

On the addition of outfielder Jonny Gomes:

FARRELL: Hes a known team guy and characteristics that were making an emphasis on placing. Obviously hes got a lot of talent and has performed exceptionally well against left-handed pitching. By the fact that he has that reputation around the game and what were looking to add a greater number of in our clubhouse, with the overall emphasis that this is a team.

Has he learned the importance of having high-character guys on his team from his two years managing the Blue Jays?

FARRELL: Its important to have good players and its important to have teams or players that buy into a team concept. And thats not to say that that wasnt the case elsewhere. But I think for us to achieve the level that were looking to, thats a main component of it.

Does he see Gomes as an everyday player or as more of a platoon player?

FARRELL: Well probably take a look at matchups as we get into that. But to say that hes strictly a platoon player I dont think that were saying that. Hell have an opportunity to earn the highest number of at-bats he can. We certainly don't want to limit him in any way.

Until seeing him more regularly in spring training I dont know that I can say how that might affect the lineup, situations late in the game with a lead. I know one thing, talking with Jonny its very apparent hes going to work to great lengths to address any limitations he may have. Whether thats offensively, defensively. Thats the type of guy that he is and has contributed to a winning cause with the number of places hes played.

Has Farrell been involved in the Sox recruitment of free agents?

FARRELL: To varying degrees. That's probably more related to where we are in certain stages with individual guys. I certainly anticipate that being the case going forward.

Is it important for a team to have high-profile players to be successful in the big leagues?

FARRELL: You're never going to not want to take talented players. But more important to that is the success of the team has got that team concept and buy-in. And that's not only an area that's not only being talked about with players that have been here, but what we're looking to add to it. So how we work collectively, and how we work together and how we compete together, you can have a group of individuals but if there's no common thread or common purpose, I think that's just going to make the challenge more difficult.

In naming Victor Rodriguez assistant hitting coach on Friday, Farrell completed his coaching staff:

FARRELL: Well, one, the concept that I felt was important with the two-man hitting coach system because the amount of work both from a time allotment in the cage and the amount of video work, I feel like it is a two-man position. But Victor does have a lot of relationships with guys on this club and certainly throughout the system, and for whoever the lead hitting coach was coming in, once we named that person, Victor was a very easy match to that to give a lot of background information and to be able to contribute in his own right. Victors going to be a very strong addition to this staff.

The coaching staff, along with some front office members, advance scouts, and other personnel, will convene on Friday and Saturday at the teams spring training complex in Fort Myers.

FARRELL: With the exception of bullpen coach Gary Tuck, first base coach Arnie Beyeler, and Victor, weve never laid eyes on that complex. And to have some understanding of it, to begin to plan spring training, so when we start there's no hidden element to this. So I think this will give us a leg up on planning spring training.theres a number of firsts that well get out of the way in these two days.

He will have several coaches on his staff in roles theyve never had on major league staffs:

FARRELL: Really with the exception of hitting coach Greg Colbrunn, who we really havent crossed paths all that much in our pro careers, it speaks to the familiarity with the people and the strong belief that theyll be able to perform exceptionally well in the roles that theyre moving into, and I say that with utmost confidence.

Has he talked with all his players yet?

FARRELL: Not 100 percent. I havent spoken to Mauro Gomez. So Im getting through it. Theres been multiple conversations with other guys. But still working through even the additions to the roster, with the six guys who were added just recently. So its getting to that point.

Does he plan to visit with any players?

FARRELL: I havent ruled it out but Ive been back and forth from here quite a bit. So staff being completed is a good thing because I feel very good about the group. But well see.

Addressing recent trade rumors with Jon Lester?

FARRELL: You take the temperature of their reaction, of what could initially be there. And I know Jon in his own words, wants to prove a number of people wrong. And I said, before we go that far, look at it as a positive, that you're a good player. Teams inquire about good players all the time. You can't change the opinion of others by what you do right now. You can by performing to your capabilities, and that's where our focus has to be.

He's a Red Sock. I think any time that first rumor gets out there, it can be a little startling for guys. But I know one thing: He's extremely motivated and he's working his tail off right now to have a very strong year.

Yeah, clearly its easier to have that conversation since they know each other. You get an understanding through that course of time how they respond to certain things, how their minds work and you can, instead of a feeling out, you can be a little bit more direct in certain cases when it might call for it.

Hes had similar conversations with catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway after the addition of David Ross.

FARRELL: Yeah, I think it's important to communicate to guys what the thought is, and this is a starting point. Certainly not the end come April 1.

On the possibility of the Sox trading one of their top starting pitchers:

FARRELL: Anything is a possibility, but I think until we get there, Im planning for everyone thats on the roster right now to be here. So we have some work to do to get guys back to the levels they performed to before, and that's where the focus is right now.

Has he talked with Lavarnway about possibly moving to first base?

FARRELL: We haven't had those discussions, because there is so much focus and emphasis on his development as a catcher, that's where the focus continues to be. With his offensive production as a catcher, he starts to put himself in a small group. There's ongoing maintenance and work to be done there, but no that's where the focus is.

Has he talked to right-hander Alfredo Aceves yet?

FARRELL: Briefly. We've had some brief conversations, a number of messages left. Colorful. He's a talented pitcher. And he can do some things in the game that he may be the only guy who can do them. With the frequency in which he can pitch, to the number of pitches thrown, he's a talented guy.

I think from my standpoint, the approach taken is to be candid with him, to be consistent with him, both in terms of what we value in guys approach, but as best can be communicated to him in his role. And that will evolve going forward, but I think the most important thing is for him to understand where he sits with us, how we view him, and what his role is, and then he can best prepare for that.

Not definitively determined his role yet. We certainly feel like his frequency of his availability as a reliever is a major asset.

How does he view left-hander Franklin Morales role coming into spring training?

FARRELL: Our plan is to have him come in and prepare as a starter. You can always go back the other way, obviously more readily than trying to lengthen out toward the end of camp. But what he did in the rotation last year for the time he was there was very impressive. Not to say how our rotation is going to look come spring training, but he did a good job in that role.

Would he like to have more depth at shortstop:

FARRELL: That's a conversation that's ongoing. It's Dec. 1 and I know the winter meetings are starting and the markets taking shape and things will start falling into place, but that's all part of a number of moving parts.

His thoughts on Pedro Ciriaco:

FARRELL: When you consider that he was a minor league free agent, thats a darn good player. Athletic, can do a number of things. I know there was an attempt to put him in center field, which when you look at a player with his skill set, that's a natural thing. Hey, if he can play center field, boy, then his value really starts to increase.But good first-step quickness, plenty of arm strength to play anywhere on the field, he was, I don't want to say a great find, but he was a heck of an addition when you consider how he came to the big leagues through that path. A lot of value there.

How eager is he to have his full roster?

FARRELL: As much as everybody else that follows the Red Sox. General manager Ben Cherington is going to put together a damn good roster, and Im fully confident in that.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

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Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 25, the Boston Celtics had the perennial title contenders on the ropes with the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and the game, 109-103.

On the road at Houston, one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Celtics led in the fourth quarter and wound up losing their Dec. 5 matchup 107-106 as Al Horford missed what would have been a game-winning lay-up as time expired.

Boston played well in both games, but not well enough to win which unfortunately for the Green Team has been how things have gone when they’ve faced some of the better teams in the NBA this season.

They are hoping to break that trend tonight when they hit the road and face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (14-9) come in with a slightly better record than the Celtics (13-10).

Boston’s issue isn’t that they can’t play with the better teams.

It’s their finish that needs work.

Boston has lost five of its six games this season against teams that are currently among the top-4 in their respective conferences. 

Losses to San Antonio and Houston only highlight Boston not being able to make the late-game runs needed to win.

Even in their 101-94 loss to Toronto on Friday, it was the Raptors’ ability to make one clutch play after another when it mattered most, that proved to be what was needed to propel them to victory.

“That’s what good teams do; they execute at the end of the game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “We just have to execute better and get stops at the end of the game. That’s what it comes down to.”

And while the Celtics have a number of returners from last season, every season brings about a different team and with that, a need to learn how to collectively be successful especially down the stretch in close games.

“We’re learning,” Bradley said following the Raptors loss. “We’re moving on to the next game.”

And that would be the Thunder who come in having won six of their last seven games.

Of course when it comes to the Thunder, everything starts with Russell Westbrook who is on everyone’s short list for league MVP.

He is averaging a triple-double this season with 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“He’s amazing,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier who will likely spend some time defending Westbrook tonight. “He’s going to be aggressive. We have to try and find a way to stop that. He’s putting up video game stats. It’s tough but we gotta do something.”

The Celtics will likely lean heavily on Marcus Smart and Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection last season, when it comes to trying to slow down Westbrook.

“Russell’s a good player,” Bradley said. “I look forward to every matchup. If it’s him, whoever it is, I look forward to it. That’s what this league is about.”

It’s also about growth and development of franchises into title contenders, something the Celtics are eager to continue pushing towards tonight.

Horford spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, advancing to the playoffs every season.

He saw first-hand how they went from a team that could barely get into the playoffs, into one that produced four all-stars in one season and had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Horford saw the loss to Toronto as an example of a really good team doing what great teams do and that’s finding a way to win regardless of how things are going most of the night.

“We made a run early (against Toronto), they stayed with it, didn’t rattle and eventually got over us,” Horford said. “We’re growing as a group.”