First Pitch: Farrell's coming to town; let the speculation begin

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First Pitch: Farrell's coming to town; let the speculation begin

SEATTLE -- As if Bobby Valentine doesn't have enough to worry about -- a just-completed 1-8 West Coast road trip; the possibility of a last-place finish; the fresh memory of a now infamous radio interview that turned contentious almost from the start -- he faces the prospect of returning home for the penultimate homestand of the season, only to find his potential replacement in the visitor's dugout.

When the Sox host the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night, speculation is bound to focus on Blue Jays manager John Farrell.

Farrell, it would seem, is nearly as tired of fielding questions about his interest in managing the Red Sox as Valentine is of facing queries about his job security.

But that won't stop the talk.

There are indications that Farrell -- and not Dale Sveum or Valentine -- was the first choice of the Red Sox last October when the team chose not to retain Terry Francona.

Before the notion could pick up much steam, however, the Jays announced they would not allow employees under contract to make lateral moves to other organizations. Multiple baseball sources said the Jays would have been willing to let Farrell go to Boston but only in exchange for pitcher Clay Buchholz, a price the Red Sox found wildly prohibitive.

Now, 11 months later, things are back where they began. Once again, the Red Sox are expected to be in search of a new manager. Once again, Farrell's name will be linked to the opening.

In some sense, not much has changed. As he was a year ago, Farrell remains under contract to the Jays, signed through the end of 2013. Their policy about not allowing personnel under contract to pursue similar jobs in other organizations is still in effect.

But that could change in a hurry. If John Henry or Larry Lucchino call Jays CEO Paul Beeston and re-state their interest in Farrell, Beeston would just about be forced to go to Farrell and see if his manager was committed to remaining with the Blue Jays -- or interested in listening to the Red Sox.

(A caveat: one MLB executive said Wednesday that Beeston is acutely aware that allowing Farrell to jump to a division rival would only further cement the sense of inferiority that many Toronto fans have regarding Canada's only MLB franchise.)

From there, it would be a matter of settling compensation between the two teams. There have already been suggestions that Daniel Bard would be an acceptable return in exchange for letting Farrell out of his deal a year early.

(One baseball source indicated recently that the relationship between Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos and Farrell has chilled some, with the former no longer entirely convinced that Farrell is the man to turn the franchise into a contender).

What's unknown is whether the Sox are still as fascinated with Farrell. In his nearly two seasons in Toronto, the Jays' progress has been minimal. Toronto has the third-worst record in the American League and will, barring some miracle hot streak, finish with a losing record for just the second time in the last seven seasons.

Still, Farrell has several undeniable positives:

He's intimately familiar with working in Boston and its attendant pressures and demands.

His knowledge of pitching in general -- and of Buchholz, Jon Lester and others on the current Red Sox staff -- would be invaluable.

And he successfully straddles the line between authoritarian figure and player-friendly manager, a balance Valentine could never strike.

Now, Farrell could still remove himself from any consideration with a Sherman-esque public statement. Or the Sox could focus their search entirely elsewhere.

But that won't stop the chatter this weekend at Fenway as the countdown to the end of the season begins and the speculation about the next Red Sox manager intensified.

Just what Valentine needs.

Red Sox recall Sam Travis, send Velázquez back to Pawtucket

Red Sox recall Sam Travis, send Velázquez back to Pawtucket

BOSTON -- On the list of Red Sox problems, finding a platoon partner for Mitch Moreland at first base isn't high on the list. But the others -- third base, fifth starter -- aren't solvable at the moment, so the Sox turned to one they think they can solve.

Today they recalled Sam Travis from Pawtucket, most likely to provide relief for Moreland against left-handed pitching. Travis' path to the majors was delayed by a knee injury that cost him a good chunk of the 2016 season -- otherwise, odds are good he'd have been here by now -- but he signaled his readiness by recovering from a 5-for-36 start with a sizzling .344 average in 90 at-bats since April 22 that includes six doubles and three home runs. His OPS in that span is .909.

Most importantly, Travis crushes left-handed pitching. He's hit .358 (93-for-260) against them in his professional career, and is .414 (12-for-29) against them this year. 

Hector Velázquez was sent back to the PawSox to make room for Travis, ensuring another roster move later this week. After Kyle Kendrick's failed attempt to take control of the fifth spot in the starting rotation, Velázquez was called up and given a shot in Oakland last Thursday night. He allowed six earned runs over five innings, failing the test. And thus the search for a fifth starter -- at least until David Price returns -- continues.

Price will make a rehab start in Pawtucket tomorrow and could return to Boston after that, but the Sox will need a pitcher for Saturday's game against Seattle. Even if Price is cleared to return to Boston, he won't be able to pitch Saturday on two days' rest.

Rosenthal: 'Some' Sox players question Farrell's leadership, game management

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Rosenthal: 'Some' Sox players question Farrell's leadership, game management

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal ignited a local firestorm when he made a seemingly off-hand comment a few days ago that he "wouldn't be surprised" if the Red Sox fired John Farrell this year. (He quickly added he also "wouldn't be surprised" if Farrell stayed on and led the team to the A.L. East title this year, but that got scant mention.)

Today, however, Rosenthal expounded on Farrell and the Sox in a lengthy column on foxsports.com. While acknowledging the team's injuries and beyond-the-manager's-control inconsistencies (in the starting rotation and with the offense), he also ominously added, "The excuses for the Sox, though, go only so far — all teams deal with injuries, and not all of them boast $200 million payrolls. Other issues also have emerged under Farrell . . . "

Farrell, even when he won the 2013 World Series as a rookie manager, was not popular in all corners of the clubhouse. Some players, but not all, believe that he does not stand up for them strongly enough to the media when the team is struggling, sources say. Some also question Farrell’s game management, talk that exists in virtually every clubhouse, some more than others.

And then he mentioned two leadership problems:

The first occurred during the Red Sox’s prolonged dispute with the Orioles’ Manny Machado. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, after Matt Barnes threw at Machado’s head, shouted across the field to Machado, 'it wasn’t me,' then told reporters that it was 'definitely a mishandled situation,' without mentioning Barnes or Farrell by name . . . 

The second incident occurred last Saturday, when Farrell engaged in a heated exchange with left-hander Drew Pomeranz in the dugout . . . [Pomeranz's] willingness to publicly challenge Farrell, in an exchange captured by television cameras, offered another indication that the manager and some of his players are not always on the same page.

Hmm.

Farrell addressed the "hot seat" issue Tuesday in an interview with MLB Network Radio.

Rosenthal's piece comes at a time when some of Farrell's harshest local critics are more or less giving him a pass, instead blaming Dave Dombrowski's flawed roster construction for the Sox' early season struggles , , , 

But there has been speculation hereabouts on whether or not Farrell has control of the clubhouse . . . 

Now that Rosenthal has weighed in, that sort of talk should increase.

In the end, Rosenthal makes no prediction on Farrell's future other than to conclude "If Dombrowski senses a change is necessary, he’ll make a change." 

But one prediction that can be made: The should-Farrell-be-fired? debate, which raged at unrealistic levels last year when the Red Sox won the division, isn't going to end anytime soon.