First pitch: Coaching staff should be clean slate for Valentine's replacement

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First pitch: Coaching staff should be clean slate for Valentine's replacement

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- One of the arguments made by partisans of Bobby Valentine is that the Red Sox manager was doomed to fail, chiefly because he had little say in selecting
his coaching staff.

While the veracity of that statement is up for debate -- Valentine personally selected two coaches and approved another whom he had as a manager at another stop, while signing off
on the hiring of others -- there's a bit of irony now in place: Valentine's replacement will not have to deal with the same inherited coaching staff.

A baseball source confirmed that none of the current coaches is under contract for next season.

Part of the reason that three of Terry Francona's coaches returned to work under Valentine is that they each had another year remaining on their contracts and the Sox' clear preference
was to have them remain -- pending Valentine's approval. If the coaches were going to be paid for 2012, went the thinking, then they might as well be working for the Red Sox.

For 2013, that won't be an issue, suggesting a clean slate for whomever the Sox hire as Valentine's repalcement.

Tim Bogar, who has clashed with Valentine, is interviewing Wednesday for the Houston Astros' managerial post.

Bogar is set to interview with owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow in the Tampa area, one of a handful of candidates under consideration.

If Bogar, who interviewed for the same job three years ago, is passed over, it seems unlikely that he'll be a candidate to manage the Sox in 2013, with Boston having focused primarily
on Toronto's John Farrell as their top choice.

Bogar is highly regarded by the organization, but after the drama of the last two seasons, it's likely the Red Sox will seek to completely makeover the coaching staff.

Hitting coach Dave Magadan's deal is also up, and he has been widely rumored to join the Chicago Cubs this off-season, reuniting with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

The Cubs fired long-time hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo earlier this season and replaced him with James Rowson. Rowson, it should be noted, was given the title "interim hitting coach,'' indicating the Cubs don't see him as the long-term solution.

Magadan is one of the game's most highly regarded hitting coaches. The Sox have been among the most productive offensive teams in the game during his tenure, and until injuries struck the club in the second half, the Sox remained second in runs scored in the American League.

However, Magadan has voiced his frustration at times over the lineup's inability to work counts and draw walks, resulting in wildy uneven offensive production. In 25 of 149 games this year, the Red Sox have scored either one or no runs.

Pitching coach Randy Niemann, a Valentine hire, is the second pitching coach this season and the fourth employed by the Red Sox since the end of 2010.

When Valentine is fired, there'll be no ties to anyone else in the organization for Niemann. It's not his fault that the pitching staff hasn't improved much since the team fired his predecessor, Bob McClure, but that won't save his job when his benefactor is dismissed, either.

Third base coach Jerry Royster, another of Valentine's hires, also would not seem to have a future in the organization. Royster has often served as a liaison of sorts between Valentine, his coaches and the ones Valentine inherited, and his work as a third base coach has been solid.

Still, when the man who hires you is then fired, your own options dwindle and it would seem that Royster will be one-and-done in Boston.

Two other coaches may have a chance to remain in the organization: catching instructor Gary Tuck and first base coach Alex Ochoa.

Tuck is highly valued for his work with the team's catchers and has the most seniority on the current staff. Along with Bogar, Tuck clashed with Valentine. In fact, not long after Valentine was hired, Tuck requested that he be let out of his contract to rejoin the New York Yankees. The Sox denied that request, an indication of highly thought of he is.

Now that Valentine is about to be let go, it may be Tuck can be convinced to stay under a new manager, especially if that manager is Farrell, with whom he worked well in their time together in Boston. Farrell, in fact, attempted to hire Tuck away when he joined the Blue
Jays.

Alex Ochoa could also remain with the organization, though not necessarily as a coach. Ochoa has worked as both a minor league instructor and his bilingual skills make him valuable in the team's Latin American developmental program.

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

BOSTON - The weight room, as much as Instagram, has been Pablo Sandoval’s home in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season.

His change in diet and routine have clearly led to visible results, at least in terms of appearance. His play is yet to be determined. But his manager and teammates have taken notice.

“Compliments to Pablo,” John Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner. “He’s done a great job with the work that he’s put in, the commitment he’s made. He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there’s work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance.”

Farrell noted that Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are the other two players in contention for time at third base and while others, such as prospect Rafael Devers, may get time there in the spring, those are the only three expected to compete for the job.

“The beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp,” Farrell said. “And that was born out of third base last year [when Travis Shaw beat out Sandoval at the third base]. That won’t change.”

Sandoval's 2016 season ended after shoulder surgery in April. 

While the manager has to be cautiously optimistic, Sandoval’s teammates can afford to get their hopes up.

“Pablo is definitely going to bounce back,” Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com “Especially with the weight he’s lost and the motivation he has to prove a lot of people wrong, to prove the fans wrong.

“He’s been a great player for his whole career. He’s not a bad player based on one year. Playing in Boston the first year is tough, so, hopefully this year he’ll be better.”

Prior to Sandoval’s abysmal 2015, his first season in Boston, when he hit .245 with 47 RBI in 126 games, the 2012 World Series MVP was a career .294 hitter who averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBI a year.

If Bogaerts is right and Sandoval can be that player again, that will be a huge lift in filling in the gap David Ortiz left in Boston’s offense.