FORT MYERS, Fla. - It has been said that perhaps the only tougher job in baseball than coaching third base for the Red Sox is managing the Red Sox. But, there are some who arent certain those are in the right order.
Brian Butterfield, the Sox new third base coach, knows whats ahead of him, and he knows it will be a challenge.
One of the benefits that Ive had, I grew up in New England, said Butterfield, a native of Maine. Dad (the late Jack Butterfield, who served as vice president of player development and scouting for the Yankees) used to take me to a lot of games. So I went to a lot of games at Fenway, watched a lot of games on TV. I almost feel like Ive been a member of the Red Sox for a long time.
And then being in the division for the last 11, 12 years, Ive had an opportunity to coach third for over 100 times at Fenway in my career. So I feel comfortable. There are some tough spots, but there are also some forgiving spots. We really feel like right field is the best two-base field in baseball, because theres so much area out there. Right fielders have to play a little bit deeper. Its a great first-to-third field and a great second-to-home field. So left field is the toughest two-base field and right field is I think the best two-base field in all of baseball. So the tough parts are offset by some easier parts. The one thing as a coach you always want to keep sight of the ball and that left field corner can be tough because that jut-out with the stands.
Butterfield knows previous Red Sox third base coaches have had a difficult time. Its part of the job with any team. Third base coaches are a lot like umpires. Fans dont notice them until something goes wrong.
Ive watched for years, and fair or unfair, sometimes it can be a very unfair position, he said. Because, for me, I still think to this day that Dale Sveum is an outstanding third base coach. I really do. Hes a guy that Ive had a lot of conversations with and I think that he takes great positioning. Hes a great decision maker. But thats the nature of the beast.
"And I think that just like players, through time you develop tough skin. You may have well-laid intentions but then the defense executes and you get a guy thrown out. And were going to get guys thrown out because good baserunning teams, aggressive baserunning teams run into outs. So you cant worry about it too much, you just got to keep moving forward and keep pressing, and thats what we try to encourage players. Im going to make some bad decisions, but Ive got to learn to flush it and move on and keep pressing the issue.
Butterfield is also responsible for the baserunning game. With an entirely new coaching staff working with a new group of players, baserunning signs have to be revised and reinvented often.
It takes a little while, he said. I know over the last five years as a third base coach, there's always guys being traded, guys who move on to other clubs, and theres things that you have to change. Well, this year, I feel like Ive had to change just about everything that Ive done offensively. So its going to be an adjustment period for me feeling good. But thats what spring training is for, feeling good about getting my signs, plus imparting to them what were going to do.