Buckner: Managing Brockton will be a 'fun challenge'

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Buckner: Managing Brockton will be a 'fun challenge'

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Bill Buckner is back in baseball in the Boston area.

Almost 21 years since retiring as a player, and in the season that will mark the 25th anniversary of Boston's 1986 American League championship (and Red Sox fans don't need to be reminded about its ending), Bill Buckner will once again be wearing a baseball uniform locally.

But it won't be a Red Sox uniform. Buckner will make his managerial debut with the Brockton Rox of the independent Can-Am League. It's an opportunity that has been presented to Buckner several times over the years, but until now the timing wasn't right.

"I just thought it'd be a fun challenge," Buckner said by phone Tuesday afternoon from Idaho, where he makes his home. "I like the shorter season and the competitive level. Regular non-independent league minor-league baseball, you're so concerned with developing players and doing that sort of thing, where the independent league is all about trying to win some games and have fun, play baseball. And I like that."

Buckner, who turned 61 in December, was a second-round pick of the Dodgers in the 1968 draft out of Napa High School in California. He made his big-league debut the next season, and hit .289 with 174 home runs, 1,208 RBI, and 2,715 hits in his 22-season career with the Dodgers, Cubs, Sox, Angels and Royals. He won a batting title in 1980 with the Cubs when he hit .324. In five seasons with the Sox, (1984-87, 1990), he hit .279 with 48 home runs and 324 RBI in 526 games.

This is Buckner's first professional managing job. Save for a short stint as a minor-league hitting instructor for the White Sox in the mid-1990s, his involvement with baseball since his retirement has been at at the amateur level.

"Just local with the kids," he said. "I've coached all the way from Little League up to college summer leagues. The managing thing is something I've always wanted to try. So I get to get a taste of that."

And with the youngest of his three children now 21, the timing is right.

"I had thought about it," he said. "But when my kids were home and my son was playing, I wanted to be around that. There were a couple of opportunities I've passed up along the way. But I thought this would be a good jump start.

"It's just the commitment, being away from home. I had gotten used to being home and kind of like it. My kids are growing up. My son's still playing baseball, and I'm trying to stay involved with that.

"Managing Brockton just seemed like it'd be a fun challenge."

With a playing career that spanned 2,517 games over parts of four decades, Buckner has a good deal of wisdom to offer young players especially in a league comprised mostly of players whose own careers may have never fully launched or have become derailed.

"I think that I was successful because I made a decision early on in my professional career that I was going to do whatever it took to get better than the guy that was next to me," Buckner said. "You got to understand that you got to do something to make yourself stand out. If you want to get to the next level, you got to put the time and effort into it. You got to be physically and mentally totally into it every day, every at-bat, every pitch.

"Not everybody's capable of doing that. But I think that if the players see the enthusiasm that I have and how I'm willing to go to bat for them and work hard, and how I was successful, then maybe they'll understand that and that'll help them out."

For someone who has never managed professionally, though, he knows it will be a challenge.

"I think managing, 75 percent of it is dealing with the pitching staff," he said. "So that is something that I need to stay on top of. As far as the everyday players, that'll all work itself out. I've watched good managers that have had success . . . If you're prepared, things'll work out. And I've always been one to prepare the best I can."

What is he most looking forward to?

"Being at the ballpark, doing something that we did when we were kids for fun," he said. "And probably the biggest thrill I get out of it is having players have success and being able to help them. There's that element of players getting a second opportunity in this league. Some of them have had success in getting back into organized ball. So that's an issue, too. If a player is serious about it, I'll do everything I can to help him get back and use my knowledge of the game to try to get them to that next level."

Getting back into organized baseball is something he might like to do down the road. But for now, he's looking no further than Brockton.

"Yeah, that's a possibility," he said. "But it's not the reason I'm doing it. I'm just going to focus on doing the best job I can this summer and have some fun. That's where I'm going to put my focus. If something else comes along the road, or if I say, 'Hey, I've really enjoyed this and I'm going to come back and do it again,' or 'I'm going to try to get a job somewhere else,' . . . that's not even in the line of thinking right now."

He played his last major league game in a Red Sox uniform, May 30, 1990, going 1-for-4 in a 4-3 loss in Texas. But, it is one game on a Saturday night in New York in late October 1986 that many Sox fans remember. Buckner bore the blame for a long time for that World Series loss. But, it hasn't prevented him from returning to the area. Two World Series championships since then can do wonders to soften fans' memories.

He's been back to Fenway Park since retiring, including Opening Day of the 2008 season after the Sox won their second World Series in four seasons. He threw the ceremonial first pitch to former teammate, right fielder Dwight Evans. As he walked to the mound from the outfield, Buckner was given a long standing ovation from the sellout crowd.

"It'll be fine," Buckner said of returning to the area. "The people there were good to me, and it'll be fine. It'll be all about baseball next summer. It's got nothing to do with my career. I'm not going to be getting any hits or getting anybody out."

His main goal for the season?

"Create a good baseball environment so people will come out and enjoy the games," he said. "It's all about enjoying the game of baseball. If you play good baseball, people like to watch it. And hopefully it'll be a great summer and we'll have some success."

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Carrabis: Red Sox coaches were upset at John Farrell's usage of Craig Kimbrel

Carrabis: Red Sox coaches were upset at John Farrell's usage of Craig Kimbrel

Jared Carrabis says he was told that some Boston Red Sox coaches were not happy with the way John Farrell was over-using Craig Kimbrel, perhaps because he was trying to save his job.

Angels score three after overturned call, beat Red Sox, 4-2

Angels score three after overturned call, beat Red Sox, 4-2

BOSTON -- The Los Angeles Angels benefited from a fairly-new rule and relied on an old-fashioned type save to beat the Boston Red Sox.

Parker Bridwell pitched a solid 6 2/3 innings and Los Angeles scored three runs after its challenge overturned an inning-ending double play in the second, leading the Angels to a 4-2 win over the Red Sox on Sunday.

Bridwell (2-0) gave up two runs and seven hits, striking out four without issuing a walk.

Yusmeiro Petit pitched two scoreless innings for his first save.

"I don't care if it's old-fashioned or it's cutting edge, we need them," Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "We need guys to hold leads. Most closers are primarily the one-inning guys that are in that bubble."

Ben Revere had three singles and Kaleb Cowart drove in two runs for Los Angeles, which won two of three against the Red Sox for its fifth series win in the last six.

Doug Fister (0-1) lost his Red Sox debut, giving up three runs and seven hits in six-plus innings. He was signed by Boston on Friday after being released by the Angels.

Mitch Moreland and Jackie Bradley Jr. each hit a solo homer for the Red Sox, who lost their second straight at Fenway Park after winning 10 of the previous 12. Boston remained tied with New York atop the AL East.

Bridwell was Fister's teammate at Triple-A Salt Lake before he was let go.

"That's weird," Bridwell said. "I was in the same clubhouse with him a week-and-a-half ago or whatever and we were talking pitching. I was asking him certain things he did along the game, and the next thing you know we're starting against each other on the big-league level."

After the challenge overturned Danny Espinosa's 3-6-3 double play, Los Angeles got to Fister.

"That's modern-day baseball," Scioscia said.

Fister was pleased by his first start with Boston, and 200th of his career.

"Overall, it wasn't a bad day," he said. "They just put together some timely hits and took advantage of well-placed baseballs. That's what good clubs do and that's what they did today."

Espinosa was credited with a fielder's choice and RBI after the review. Cowart followed with an RBI double and Juan Gratetrol had a run-scoring single.

"He's a bang-bang play from a scoreless outing," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

Moreland homered over the Angels' bullpen in the bottom half. Bradley Jr. hit his into the center-field bleachers in the fifth.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Angels: Scioscia said LHP Tyler Skaggs was scratched from a scheduled rehab start in the Arizona League on Saturday night with soreness in his oblique and abdominal area.

Red Sox: Farrell said ace lefty David Price has a middle finger-nail issue on his pitching hand, but "is expected" to make his next scheduled start. ... LHP Eduardo Rodriguez, on the 10-day DL with a right knee subluxation, will make a rehab start for Double-A Portland on Thursday after he felt fine following a 68-pitch bullpen session on Saturday.

ROSTER MOVE

The Angels recalled infielder Cowart from Triple-A Salt Lake before the game and optioned RHP Eduardo Paredes there before the game.

INSPIRATIONAL MESSAGE

The Red Sox put a message on the center-field board, wishing NESN analyst Jerry Remy: "Best of Luck, Jerry, on your surgery tomorrow!"

The crowd gave him a huge ovation when he was shown on the scoreboard. The popular former Red Sox second baseman (1978-84) waved.

He is being treated for cancer for the fifth time.

NICE PERFORMANCE

Nine-year-old Shea Braceland from Westfield, Mass., got a long and loud ovation when she completed a flawless rendition of the national anthem.

UP NEXT

Angels: Ricky Nolasco (2-9, 5.23 ERA) is set to face Dodgers LHP Rich Hill (4-3, 4.73) when the teams open a two-game series at Dodger Stadium on Monday. Nolasco has lost his last seven decisions.

Red Sox: LHP Chris Sale (9-3, 2.85) is in line to work against Minnesota RHP Jose Berrios (7-1, 2.67) when the teams open a four-game series in Fenway Monday. Sale leads the majors with 146 strikeouts.