Farrell's hiring gets Lester's stamp of approval

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Farrell's hiring gets Lester's stamp of approval

Jon Lester is happy with the selection of former pitching coach John Farrell as his new manager, the man who Lester says "knows me better than anyone in baseball."

And while Lester knows Farrell only as his pitching coach, he predicts he'll take the same meticulous approach as manager -- and be every bit as successful.

"I know how well-prepared he was as a pitching coach," said Lester by phone Monday night, two days after Farrell was hired and a day before he was set to be formally introduced, "and for him to have a whole team to be in charge of, I can only imagine what he's going to do. We'll have meetings about this thing or that thing -- how to play this guy, how to pitch to this guy. He'll just be prepared, every night, to put us in the best position to win."

Asked if he felt the Red Sox sometimes lacked the proper preparation under former manager Bobby Valentine, Lester equivocated some.

"I don't know what was missing," he said, looking back on the team's 93-loss season. "I know (for the pitching staff), having two pitching coaches was tough. And there were other things, distractions, that made it difficult. It finally came to a point where guys kind of stopped paying attention (to the distractions) and just kept their heads down and played."

But Lester, who had his worst season with a 9-14 record and a career-worst 4.82 ERA, stopped short of predicting that reuniting with Farrell will guarantee a return to form.

"It helps (having Farrell back)," acknowledged Lester. "It helps you feel comfortable. But as far figuring things out, I need to do that by myself."

In addition to approving of whom the Red Sox hired, he's also thrilled at how quickly the hiring took place.

"I think the biggest thing is getting it done so soon," said Lester. "That kind of puts a statement down, that we want to move forward. That was the most exciting thing for me. Now we start building and look forward to next year.

"Last year, (when Valentine was hired on Dec. 1), we had a lot of question marks and things going with the coaching staff getting in place late. It kind of put a damper on the off-season. Now, we can move on and look to get off to a good start in spring training."

Lester and Farrell, of course, are hardly strangers. Farrell served as Red Sox pitching coach during Lester's first four full seasons in the big leagues and the lefthander enjoyed his best seasons with Farrell as his coach.

"I think the biggest thing with me and John," said Lester, "was that I always knew, if I needed anything as far as getting questions answered or guidance, I could go to John and get a no-BS answer. I knew I was getting the truth and that he had my best interest. That's hard to find sometimes in the game. Sometimes, people give you (the answer) that you want to hear.

"We had some times when we butted heads, when he told me that I was wrong. But we worked it out. That's what I respect and like about him. And that's what I'm expecting (now that Farrell is the manager). It's one of those traits that will carry on, regardless of his (new) position."

Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard all learned to pitch in the big leagues under Farrell. Now that Farrell is returning to the Red Sox as a manager, Lester knows the roles -- and relationship -- will change somewhat.

"The hard thing will be, if I'm struggling, I'll want to go to John (for help)," said Lester. "And I'll have to develop a relationship with whoever we bring in as pitching coach. But the respect level (for Farrell) won't change."

Nor does Lester think Farrell himself will change, or change his approach.

"Now, he just has to manage 25 personalities," he said.

When Farrell addresses the full squad of players at the start of spring training, it won't be hard to command the room.

"He'll have everyone's attention right away," said Lester. "As far as respect, with the guys he doesn't know, that has to be earned. That goes for anybody. You have to have that personal one-on-one respect, and as a manager, that takes time. John walks in that door as a baseball person you respect. The first words that come out will be a good stepping stone."

The hiring of Farrell didn't catch anybody on the Red Sox by surprise, according to Lester. Players, sensing that Bobby Valentine wouldn't return for 2013, knew that Farrell was first on the Red Sox' list of candidates.

"It was kind of expected," said Lester. "We've been sort of hearing about this for 2 12 months. Now, finally, it's done and we can move forward."

Lester left little doubt that the Sox can move on from last season's troubles.

"All the guys in the clubhouse had great chemistry," he said. "We got along and wanted to play for each other. Hopefully, we can build off that. I'm excited. I'm looking forward to (2013). But for me, the biggest thing is getting as far away from last year as quickly as I can."

New season, new pitcher, new persona: The evolution of Rick Porcello

New season, new pitcher, new persona: The evolution of Rick Porcello

BOSTON -- Just over a year ago, Rick Porcello made his return from the 15-day disabled list, and the righty's not only been a new pitcher, but a new person at times.

“Pretty Ricky” is still the mild-mannered, well-spoken pitcher off the field, but between the white lines the 27-year-old's unexpectedly shown a gritty side of late.

Part of his alter ego is his sweat-crowned cap that's helped him find a way into Red Sox Nation’s heart by indirectly paying homage to Trot Nixon, one of Boston’s most hard-nosed players in recent history.

“I don’t know how that happens,” Porcello said bewildered by his unsightly, yet lucky hat. “It’s disgusting. Trust me, I don’t even want to put it on.

“I wear the same hat throughout the course of the season if things are going well, and if they’re not I change it out.”

His hat is one of the more glaring changes to the 2016 version of Rick Porcello -- given the contradiction with his nickname. But what’s also come to surface with his Cy Young-caliber pitching is his toughness.

And we’re not talking about his ability to get out of jams -- although that’s been the case too. We’re talking about his frustration every time he gets pulled in the middle of an inning, and, even more so, chirping at opposing players -- like he did Chase Headley, giving some life to the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry that’s been in a lull the last few seasons.

“I’m not really sure why I did it [to Headley] and in Detroit,” Porcello said his recent change in behavior. “I don’t like to be vocal like that. I like to just try to go out there and do my job. That’s really it. I’m not a guy that screams at guys on the mound.

“But I think there are times, when, if you feel strongly about something that’s going on, then you need to speak up instead of just letting it continue. That’s all that was.”

If you haven’t heard Rick Porcello in the postgame interview following his starts, those reactions on the mound aren't something anyone would expect from him. He’s always one to take his time articulating his points in detail -- far from some of the shoot-from-the-hip players Boston’s had in the past.

“I don’t think that’s really indicative of my personality or anything like that,” the righty said on his changing mound presence. “I mean, when I’m between the lines, I’m definitely not trying to make friends with the other team. I’m trying to beat ‘em. That’s really all I care about, is us winning games. If I feel like they’re doing something to alter that -- and it’s not right -- then I’ll say something. But I don’t fell like I’m running around like a hothead just screaming at everybody.

“It’s a little bit different when you’re between the lines and you’re competing. We’re in a race right now. You’re emotions are going to be running high. Certain things at certain levels that you get to on the field you don’t get to in any other aspect in your life. Whether it’s the adrenaline or just the emotion that comes through, those sorts of things. I think a lot of guys when they’re competing and they get into that moment, they turn into a bit of different person or a different animal. That’s all that is.”

The Cy Young candidate also mentioned the recent outbursts were more situation-based, rather than results of playing both Boston’s greatest rival or his old team.

While it’s made his already impressive starts even more entertaining, Porcello doesn’t want his competitiveness to mistaken for disrespect towards the game or his opponents. But he intends to get the message across that he’s not only passionate about winning, but will speak up if he deems it necessary.

“It’s a fine line between being composed and when something goes down then you say what you need to say or you’re just running around like a hothead,” Porcello said. “I definitely don’t want to be the latter. But I’m passionate about what we’re doing and I’m passionate about our team and winning. Anything can happen when you’re out there and those things are at stake.”

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar

Quotes, notes and stars: Barnes takes the blame in loss

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Quotes, notes and stars: Barnes takes the blame in loss

BOSTON -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 10-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

QUOTES

“That one’s one me. I’ve got to do a better job of securing that lead and getting out of that inning.” - Matt Barnes on giving up the lead.

“When he tries to go down and away to right-handers, the ball’s leaking back to the middle a bit. That was the case against [Lorenzo] Cain [and Raul] Mondesi in this case tonight. It’s on the plate first pitch, bases loaded he’s trying to get a strike to get ahead. But in general, Barnes has pitched to the edge at times and missed, and then when he’s on the plate it’s probably found the middle of the plate a bit too much.” - John Farrell on Barnes’ outing.

“I think everybody in that bullpen believes in every single person down there.” - Barnes said on the bullpen.

“It was good, everything was good . . . Just the fastball command was a little out of control.” - Eduardo Rodriguez on his left hamstring and his performance.

 

NOTES

* David Ortiz launched his 31st home run of the season, which also marked the 534th of his career, tying Jimmie Foxx for 18th on the all-time home run chart.

* Mookie Betts recorded his Major League-leading 56th multi-hit game of the season.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. finished 1-for-2, bumping his average to .317 (77-for-243) at Fenway this season.

* The Red Sox grounded into four double plays, tying their season high on 6/12 against Minnesota.

* Matt Barnes’ ERA jumped from 3.68 before Sunday’s game to 4.45 after giving up 5 runs without recording an out.

 

STARS

1) Raul Mondesi

Mondesi’s bases-clearing triple in the sixth opened the floodgates and gave Kansas City the lead they would continue to build off.

2) Matt Strahm

 Strahm relieved Yordano Ventura after his short 4 and 1/3-inning outing. He held the Red Sox scoreless through 2.2 innings to earn his second win of the season.

3) Salvador Perez

Perez launched his sixth home run in his last eight games against Boston. He became the Royal to homer in three-straight games at Fenway since Billy Butler did in 2011.