Niemann ready to 'go forward' with pitching staff

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Niemann ready to 'go forward' with pitching staff

BOSTON -- A somber Randy Niemann hinted at changes to come as he takes over as Red Sox pitching coach, the fourth person to fill that role since the end of the 2010 season.

"I met with all the (pitchers)," said Niemann, who was promoted after the team fired Bob McClure Monday. "I told them that we're going to go forward, we're going to work hard and we're going to do some things a little different."

Asked to specify what changes he would make, Niemann declined to get into specifics, though he did hint he would take a tighter rein when it comes to running the staff.

"I'm not going to get into that right now," he said. "But going forward, we're going to be OK. I know this: the guys are going to be focused on what they're doing and they're going to be focused on the task at hand on a daily basis. I'm going to make sure of that.

"We're going to try to do things a little more on schedule and try to make things a little easier for those guys to understand to be able to focus and do what they're capable of doing."

Niemann, who had served as the team's assistant pitching coach until Monday, said "sometimes you can tweak things, do them a little differently and hopefully that works for the guys. But I know they're going to be focused and ready to go."

Some Red Sox starters, including Josh Beckett, don't typically throw between-start bullpen sessions, preferring to throw on flat ground. But Niemann hinted that might be under review.

"I think some of it's (up to the) individual," said Niemann. "Some of it can be tweaked. I've already discussed that with a couple of the guys today. We're probably going to keep somewhat the same, with a little tweak. The whole idea is when they go out on their fifth day, that they're the best prepared they can be. Whatever it's going to take to do that, we're going to address it and do it."

Reminded that the starting rotation's ERA of 4.83 is one of the worst in the baseball, Niemann said the staff is capable of improvement.

"I think we're better than that," he said. "I think the guys feel like we're better than that and we're going to work hard in the last month and a half to get it better."

Niemann acknowledged that the last 24 hours were difficult for him, given his friendship with McClure.

"It's been a very tough day," said Niemann. "It's a tough time. Someone who was a good friend of ours, I had to over for."

Though McClure and manager Bobby Valentine had a strained relationship, Niemann and McClure actually got along fine and worked well together and Niemann was shaken by McClure's firing.

"I was disappointed for Mac," he said upon hearing the news. "He's a good friend. I tried to help him as much as I possibly could. He was in charge and anything I had to say, I said to him and let him convey it. There can only be one voice and he was the voice."

The fact that Niemann has been with the team since spring training and filled in while McClure took a personal leave for family reasons will help ease the transition.

"I think it makes it easier than if you totally walked into a new, cold situation," he said.

Sox hope to bring David Ortiz back to Boston for new role

Sox hope to bring David Ortiz back to Boston for new role

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- David Oritz’s time in Boston as a player is over. He continues to say there’s no Brett Favre-type comeback, no matter how many people ask him.

However, that doesn’t mean his time with the Red Sox is over.

Sam Kennedy, Tom Werner and Dave Dombrowski are heading down to the Dominican Republic to tour the team’s academy on the island to see what changes, if any, need to be made.

Ortiz will join them on those tours.

“He’s just a good guy to go to the Dominican with,” Kennedy said. “We thought it’d be great to catch up. Haven’t seen him since before the holidays.”

But the front office members intend to exchange more than just pleasantries and stories from the holiday season. One goal on the trip is to bring Ortiz back to the organization as an employee.

“Yeah that’s something on the agenda,” Kennedy said. “We’re gonna talk about what he may or may not want to do. He did say after the season let’s just talk in January. He was so overwhelmed and tired so it’s a good time to start those conversations.

“I know he has a lot of plans, broadcasting, a lot of businesses he’s involved with and we’ll see what he’s up to. But we hope to cement something so he’s a part of the organization.”

What role that is yet to be determined. Assuming he doesn’t pursue a broadcasting career.

“I truly don’t know what’s on his mind,” Kennedy said. “He’ll obviously be good at whatever he decides to do, but I would hope that we could create a role where he has influence in the baseball operations side, he has influence in marketing, as an ambassador. A lot of our alums we’ve found really enjoy working with young players. Pedro [Martinez] is a perfect example of that.

“So we’ll see what he’s interested in doing, but I have heard him talk about broadcasting in the past and I think he’d be great at it if he decides to do it.”

Swihart, Wright fully recovered for Red Sox' spring training

Swihart, Wright fully recovered for Red Sox' spring training

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Dave Dombrowski told reporters at the Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods both Steven Wright and Blake Swihart are ready to go for spring training.

Wright suffered a shoulder injury from sliding back into second as a pinch runner against the Dodgers in August, ending his All-Star season far too soon. The knuckleballer went 13-6 with a 3.33 ERA in 24 starts last season.

“His shoulder has been feeling good,” Dombrowski said of Wright, who was not at the event due to a prior engagement. “He’s out there throwing, so he feels good.”

Swihart saw his season end even sooner than Wright, after spraining his left ankle June 4 tracking down a foul ball in left field near the wall at Fenway Park. He played in only 19 games last season. 

“[Swihart] said he feels great,” Dombrowski said. “He’s going right from here down to Florida and he said he’s ready to go.”

Swihart will move back to the catcher position for spring training, with his goal of winning the job over Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez. The ankle might’ve been a cause for concern had the Red Sox handled the situation differently, but by all accounts he’s OK to catch again.

“They tell me [there’s no reason for concern],” Dombrowski said. “I guess I’m really not knowledgeable to say that, but the doctors and trainers have told me no.

"That’s why they went and had the surgery because they felt the way the tendon kept slipping that [there was a] possibility it would bother him more. But after the surgery now, they feel there will not be any problems in that regard.”