Farrell's hiring gets Lester's stamp of approval

724234.jpg

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."

Mitch Moreland fancies himself an ideal fit with Red Sox

Mitch Moreland fancies himself an ideal fit with Red Sox

Mitch Moreland put up mediocre numbers and won a Gold Glove in a walk year. For his efforts, he received a one-year, $5.5 million contract on the open market. 

That’s not a lot. Maybe his .233 average stood out to teams more than his 22 homers, but either way it’s somewhat surprising that a one-year deal on low money is the best he could do given the fact that his career average was .258 prior to last year and he’d hit .275 or higher in two of his previous four seasons. 

The contract might not be a major score for Moreland, but he said choosing Boston was. 

“I had a couple options, but really just the whole fact that it’s place that I really wanted to play,” he said of Boston. “Getting an opportunity to come here and be a part of a winning environment, being part of a winning environment and having a chance to go out and play for a championship is huge to me, personally, and this is a great option. 

“What they were able to do last year, you know you were in for a fight when you were playing these guys. It was a gritty group of guys that had a ton of talent. I like to think of myself as that type player, as a gritty type player and hopefully I felt like I could fit in here and move forward and try to help out and make that goal happen of winning a championship. 

“That’s the main goal as far as playing this game for me. I feel like we’ve got a great opportunity here, and that was before the [Chris] Sale news broke, too, you know? So seeing that also, it just shows you that we’re in it. We’re in it and trying to go all out to make that happen. I’m happy to be a part of it.” 

It doesn’t hurt that his batting average is higher at Fenway Park than it is in any other stadium in which he’s had at least 30 at-bats. Moreland has hit .341/.378/.683 with four homers and eight RBI in 41 career at-bats at Fenway. Asked to explain his success in Boston, he noted that “comfortable” was the only word that came to mind. 

So what is the Red Sox’ plan for the former Rangers first baseman? To play him at first against righties and let Hanley Ramirez DH, John Farrell said. 

Farrell did also point to Moreland’s recent work against lefties. Last season was one of two in his career (the other being 2013) in which Moreland had a better average against lefties than against righties. Moreland hit .277/.320/.479 against southpaws last season, with .221/.293/.407 marks against righties.

“Against right-handed starters, Mitch will be the first baseman,” Farrell said. “That gives us the flexibility to DH Hanley in that spot. One thing I also mentioned to Mitch is we’re certainly open to his at-bats growing in number against left-handers, last year was his best year against left-handers in his big league career.

"With Mitch, getting everyday at-bats against right-handed starters at first base and Hanley moving to the DH slot, that alignment, we also have the ability against quality left-handers, where Hanley would go back to first base and then we’ve got the ability to rotate some guys through the DH slot. 

Added Farrell: “His strengths as a player are many, but we feel this is a very good fit in a number of ways, and positionally first and foremost.” 

Red Sox make Mitch Moreland signing official

rangers-mitch-moreland.jpg

Red Sox make Mitch Moreland signing official

The Red Sox officially announced the signing of first baseman Mitch Moreland Thursday. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the team designated left-handed pitcher Williams Jerez for assignment. 

Moreland has played his entire career with the Rangers, winning a Gold Glove at first base last season. He hit .233/.298/.422 with 22 homers and 60 RBI for the Rangers last season before becoming a free agent. He has a career batting average of .254, with a career-high 23 homers in both the 2013 and 2015 seasons. 

A second-round pick of the Red Sox in the 2011 draft, Jerez started his professional career as an outfielder before being moved to pitcher.