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."

Red Sox can't rally against Rays after Chris Archer's start

Red Sox can't rally against Rays after Chris Archer's start

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.