First pitch: Red Sox managerial search to start with Farrell

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First pitch: Red Sox managerial search to start with Farrell

NEW YORK -- If you listen closely, you can almost hear a clock ticking on the Red Sox' 2012 season, and, no, it is not about to detonate, casusing collateral damage.

Rather, it is about to quietly expire, and with it, Bobby Valentine's tenure as manager of the team will come to end.

The Red Sox can't say that publicly, of course. Both ownership and the front office said two months ago that Valentine would finish the season, and with just two games remaining, they'll make good on that vow.

But when the Red Sox return home to Boston, there will be meetings scheduled Thursday and it's all but certain that the team will hold a news conference to fire Valentine.

That's when things will get really interesting.

The clear front-runner for the job is Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell, who served as Red Sox pitching coach from 2007 through 2010.

But because Farrell is under contract with the Blue Jays through the end of 2013, the Red Sox will likely have to compensate the Blue Jays for allowing Farrell to leave with a year remaining on his deal. A year ago, the Blue Jays demanded Clay Buchholz in return for Farrell. If the asking price is as prohibitive this time, the Red Sox won't waste much time bickering with Toronto and will move on to other candidates.

Just how cooperative the Jays are will itself be fascinating.

Before the Sox even get around to asking about Farrell, it's possible that the Jays could themselves present Farrell with a contract extension.

Should that happen, Farrell could have a decision to make. If he accepts, he will effectively be taking himself out of the running for the Red Sox job. If he declines, he'll be signaling to the Jays that he wishes to explore returning to Boston.

"There are,'' acknowledges one baseball executive, "a lot of moving parts to this whole thing.''

Several people with knowledge of the situation insist that there is likely to be a divide within the Toronto organization when it comes to allowing Farrell to leave -- or, at the minimum, making the compensation reasonable enough to enable him to do so.

Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston is seen as someone who is more likely to facilitate Farrell's departure -- if that is indeed what Farrell wants.

The one caveat: Beeston is sensitive to the notion that some fans view the Red Sox' role as poachers -- the mighty, big-market U.S. team intent on plundering the Blue Jays, using them as a farm team for the Sox' development.

Given that this is the second time that the Sox have inquired about Farrell and that just one year remains on his contract, Beeston may not want to stand in the way if Farrell wishes to make the move.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos, however, is likely to be far less accommodating. Despite a losing season, Anthopoulos values Farrell and is eager to retain him. And if he doesn't retain him, he's not likely to allow Farrell to bolt to a division rival.

If the Sox encounter a roadblock with Farrell, where would they next turn?

While the Sox still place a value on managerial experience, they're not blind to the fact that a number of recent hires with no experience whatsoever have been enormously successful, including Mike Matheny (St. Louis), Robin Ventura (Chicago) and Kirk Gibson (Arizona).

Some have suggested that Jason Varitek, hired as a special assistant last week, would be a good choice if the club opted to consider candidates without previous experience.

But a source indicates that Varitek isn't yet ready to make that sort of commitment. Further, Varitek is said to understand that taking over a roster of former teammates would be problematic.

Varitek may well pursue managing down the road. But for any number of reasons, that time is not now.

Cherington had a long list of candidates last fall -- including Pete Mackanin, Sandy Alomar Jr and Torey Lovullo -- but if ownership found them less than inspiring, it's difficult to imagine he would return to the same group.

Detroit Tigers coach Gene Lamont made it to the finalist stage, but interviewing him again would only highlight the point that the organization made the wrong choice last December.

In all likelihood, the team would start fresh, with perhaps a willingness to consider other names without experience, including former Sox third baseman Bill Mueller and Brad Ausmus.

First, however, they intend to find out about Farrell.

Drellich: Pomeranz lessens heat on Dombrowski's trade history

Drellich: Pomeranz lessens heat on Dombrowski's trade history

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz is helping out Dave Dombrowski’s balance sheet in Boston.

The Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel trades have been awesome — beyond awesome, even. The Tyler Thornburg deal looks like a disaster that, maybe someday, Dombrowski will acknowledge rather than sidestep. The Carson Smith deal has produced, if nothing else, no gain. The Fernando Abad deal has not hurt the Sox, and he’s had some decent moments.

But the Pomeranz trade with the Padres, for just top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza, stood as the most controversial of Dealer Dave’s moves until the past couple months. Now, the Cult of Travis Shaw has slowly made folks forget about Espinoza and the complicated set of circumstances that surrounded that trade.

“Rescind” is something you’re hearing less and less. 

It’s remarkable what a 2.70 ERA in a 40-inning, seven-start stretch can do. Pomeranz is looking like a lot shinier these days, particularly after Tuesday night, when he came back out despite a rain delay of more than an hour in a 9-2 win over the Twins.

From the day that 40-inning stretch began, May 25, through Tuesday, only four qualified starters posted a better ERA in the American League: Corey Kluber (1.29), Jason Vargas (2.27), Jordan Montgomery (2.52) and Mike Pelfrey (2.64).

For comparison: Chris Sale is 10th in that stretch, at 3.54. Rick Porcello has 6.08 ERA in the same time.

Realistically, where the Sox stood last season, they needed Pomeranz. He was healthy enough to throw. That’s the reality everyone who wanted the deal undone always undersold: the back of the rotation was crumbling. 

But that was just one layer of the deal.

The Padres did not provide as much medical information as they should have, and the Sox stuck with Pomeranz despite the opportunity to look elsewhere.

Espinoza hasn’t pitched for a Padres minor league affiliate yet this season. He’s playing catch from flat ground as he comes back from a forearm injury, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported recently. 

Trades, to this observer, are typically best evaluated by reviewing the process behind them — which is to say, by looking back at the information was available at the time the deal was made. And at the time, it was known that the Sox were paying for Pomeranz beyond just last season's second half. They were paying for a controllable arm who could help out the rotation this year too.

Dombrowski may well have acquired Pomeranz at his peak value, which is unsurprising. But what mattered most was whether the team believed Pomeranz could contribute effectively beyond 2016. That, once they had all the health information, whether they properly evaluated what it would mean for his future.

It looked bad when Pomeranz started the season on the disabled list. He had a stem-cell injection in his forearm in the winter, too. There wasn’t much to hang your hat on at the start of April. 

Realistically, Pomeranz probably isn’t 100 percent right now. Even within the relative world of pro baseball — where no one is ever 100 percent — Pomeranz is probably further from it than most. 

But he's powered through. Pomeranz’s attitude might actually fit Boston better than most realize. He also is, whether people want to acknowledge it or not, a pitcher with a high ceiling in terms of ability (if not innings).

He also is, whether people want to acknowledge it or not, a pitcher with a high ceiling in terms of ability (if not innings).

How Pomeranz holds up is to be seen. But the team’s judgment that he would have value beyond last season, a value worth surrendering Espinoza for, is looking better and better.

Francona misses second game this month because of health issues

Francona misses second game this month because of health issues

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona missed Tuesday night's game against Texas after his second trip to the hospital this month.

The Indians said doctors for now have ruled out major health issues and Francona will be monitored the next several weeks.

Francona, 58, left Monday night's game because he wasn't feeling well. He spent several hours at Cleveland Clinic and underwent a series of tests.

Francona was released from the hospital on Tuesday and spent the rest of the day at home. He was expected to return to the dugout Wednesday when the Indians host the Rangers. Cleveland lost to Texas 2-1 on Tuesday.

Bench coach Brad Mills ran the team in Francona's absence. Cleveland began the day in first place in the AL Central after rallying for a 15-9 win Monday.

"Tito actually wanted to come back to the ballpark today," team president Chris Antonetti said Tuesday. "I told him he can't come back to the ballpark today. He only got a couple hours of sleep last night, so despite his desire to want to be here, I thought it was best that he gets some rest tonight and just come back tomorrow. His plan when he was getting released from the hospital was to come over here."

"I don't think he was exceedingly happy with me," Antonetti said with a laugh. "That's OK."

Francona was hospitalized June 13 following a game at Progressive Field. He underwent tests and was released a few hours later, returning to work the following night. Last August, he missed a game after experiencing chest pains but was back the next day.

"Thankfully, we've got some great doctors that are coordinating his care," Antonetti said. "They've done every test they can possibly imagine. They've all come back clean. They're now working to try to figure out what are some of those things that are causing him to not feel so well."

Francona, a close friend of Mills for several years, has retained his sense of humor through his health issues.

A statement released by the team Tuesday read, "Mr. Francona also wanted to express that medical personnel have not yet ruled out an allergy to Bench Coach Brad Mills."