Farrell ready to learn from mistakes made in Toronto

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Farrell ready to learn from mistakes made in Toronto

BOSTON The Red Sox had their sights set on John Farrell as a potential manager even before he joined the organization as pitching coach in 2007. General manager Ben Cherington and assistant general manager Mike Hazen had known Farrell for years, were familiar with him and his skill set, and were comfortable that he would be the right person for the job.

They tried to get him from Toronto a year ago, after Terry Francona was fired following the collapse of 2011. But, when the Blue Jays requested right-hander Clay Buchholz in return, the Sox closed the window and turned their sights elsewhere.

But when the debacle of 2012 and the disastrous tenure of Bobby Valentine ended, the Sox again looked to the north. This time they were not denied, getting Farrell in exchange for infielder Mike Aviles.

But Farrells tenure in Toronto was not without its controversies. In two seasons leading the Blue Jays he compiled a combined record of 154-170, finishing in fourth place in the American League East each year. Only the Sox disaster of 2012 saved him from finishing in last place in the division.

Farrell said he learned from his experience with the Jays, from game management to dealing with players.

There were times where I could have, and this comes from those experiences in Toronto in my relationship with general manager Alex Anthopoulos and the conversations we would have regarding the roster, I think there might have been opportunities for me to speak a little bit more passionately toward some suggestions or recommendations to the roster, Farrell said. We also introduced and brought in a number of young players and we created a diverse offense that was aggressive. We looked to incorporate a much more aggressive running game. Some of that was overboard and some of that we ran into some outs.

"So creating that environment, that approach and then putting young players into it, there probably were opportunities where I should have shut them down as far as the Xs and Os of the game and maybe I would have changed closers a little bit quicker."

But the criticisms were not limited to his game-management decisions. In September, shortstop Yunel Escobar played a game against the Red Sox wearing eye black with a homophobic slur written in Spanish. Later that month, veteran Omar Vizquel questioned Farrells communication with staff and players and his direction of young players.

I think there are going to be situations that arise with any club and how you deal with them, Farrell said. Again, establishing that trusting environment and if that trust is breached, thats where I chose to deal with players in one-on-one situations in my office and then teaching settings came out of that, as far as the decision-making maybe on the basepaths.

In the terms of the other situations and with Escobars eye black situation, theres a minimum amount of professionalism that is expected and I would suspect that his teammates would have said something to him. But the fact that is he wrote some things on his eye black on a number of occasions, never once was it malicious of my understanding and to think that he had written something that was offensive to a large portion of the population, you know what, it was wrong. And he paid the price in terms of discipline on that.

The other comments, you know what, they might not have been fully informed as a result of the way some of the discipline is handled. So people are going to have their opinions. But by no means should that suggest that a clubhouse is a free-for-all by any means.

None of that shook the Sox confidence in Farrell.

What Im looking for in a manager is someone who can make sure that players that we have are getting everything that we need every day, taking advantage of all the resources, and ultimately that were prepared to play, said general manager Ben Cherington. Theres a lot that goes into that. Theres teaching that goes into that, preparation, game-planning that goes into that. Ultimately its on me and us, the organization, to build a roster that then leads to wins.

The managers job is to get the most out of the roster thats given to him and clearly based on our performance this year we need to do a better job of building a roster so that not just John but the entire organization benefits and our fans get what they deserve. So that work is going to continue to go on. Its been going on this month. Its going to go on all offseason. Its not going to stop in spring training.

I believe John is the right person to make sure that once the rosters together and we hit spring training, that every players given the best opportunity possible to succeed and ultimately our team had the best opportunities.

List of Bruins prospects include two familiar names

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List of Bruins prospects include two familiar names

With decidedly Boston-sounding names and thoroughly familiar faces, given their resemblances to their ex-Bruin dads, it might have been easy to overlook Ryan Donato and Ryan Fitzgerald and focus on the truly little-known prospects at Development Camp earlier this month.

But on the ice, their brimming confidence, their offensive skills and the maturity to their all-around game was impossible to ignore.

When it was over, general manager Don Sweeney singled out Donato, who plays at Harvard, and Fitzgerald, from Boston College -- along with Notre Dame forward Anders Bjork and former Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk -- as players who have developed significantly.
 
“[They're] just comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Sweeney. “I mean, they’ve played at the college hockey level . . . two, three, four years with some of these kids. They’re very comfortable in their own skin and in what they do.”
 
Donato, 20, is actually coming off his first season at Harvard, where he posted 13 goals and 21 points in 32 games. He looked like he was in midseason form during Development Camp, showing off a scoring touch, skill with the puck on his stick in tight traffic, and the instincts to anticipate plays that allow him to beat defenders to spots in the offensive zone. He’s primed for a giant sophomore season with the Crimson, based on his showing at camp.
 
“Every year is a blast," said Donato, son of former Bruins forward and current Harvard coach Ted Donato. "You just come in [to development camp] with an open mindset where you soak everything up from the coaches like a sponge, and see what they say. Then I just do my best to incorporate it into my game and bring it with me to school next year.
 
“One of the things that [Bruins coaches and management] has said to me -- and it’s the same message for everybody -- is that every area of your game is an important one to develop. The thing about the NHL is that every little detail makes the difference, and that’s what I’ve been working on whether it’s my skating, or my defensive play. Every little piece of my game needs to be developed.”
 
Then there's Fitzgerald, 21, who is entering his senior season at BC after notching 24 goals and 47 points in 40 games last year in a real breakout season. The 2013 fourth-round pick showed speed and finishing ability during his Development Camp stint and clearly is close to being a finished hockey product at the collegiate level.
 
“It was good. It’s definitely a fun time being here, seeing these guys and putting the logo on,” said Fitzgerald, son of former Bruins forward Tom Fitzgerald, after his fourth Development Camp. “One thing I’m focusing on this summer is getting stronger, but it’s also about just progressing and maturing.
 
“I thought . . . last year [at BC] was a pretty good one, so I just try to build off that and roll into my senior season. [The Bruins] have told me to pretty much continue what I’m doing in school. When the time is right I’ll go ahead [and turn pro], so probably after I graduate I’ll jump on and make an impact.”
 
Fitzgerald certainly didn’t mention or give any hints that it could happen, but these days it has to give an NHL organization a bit of trepidation anytime one of their draft picks makes it all the way to their senior season. There’s always the possibility of it turning into a Jimmy Vesey-type situation if a player -- like Fitzgerald -- has a huge final year and draws enough NHL interest to forego signing with the team that drafted him for a shot at free agency in the August following his senior season.
 
It may be a moot point with Fitzgerald, a Boston kid already living a dream as a Bruins draft pick, but it’s always a possibility until he actually signs.
 
In any case, both Donato and Fitzgerald beat watching in their respective college seasons after both saw their development level take a healthy leap forward.