BOSTON After one season that ranged from uncomfortable to disastrous, the Red Sox fired manager Bobby Valentine Thursday afternoon. The axing came less than 24 hours after the Sox were pummeled, 14-2, in the season finale at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night. The loss completed their 69-93 season, finishing in last place in the American League East for the first time since 1992, when they had four more wins and there were seven teams in the division.It was the most losses the team suffered since losing 96 of 155 games in 1928. At .426, it was their lowest winning percentage since .423 in 1933. It was their fewest wins since the 1954 team also lost 69 (youd have to go back to 1943 for a team with fewer, 68).Now, after being one of the most successful franchises of the previous decade, the Red Sox will hire their third manager in as many years.Valentine, the 45th manager in team history, lasted less than a year, hired on Dec. 1, 2011. But he had not managed since 2002 when the Red Sox enticed him from the ESPN broadcasting booth. His tenure, though, was marked by many missteps along the way, from targeting players for reprimand during drills in spring training, drawing the consternation of other players, to saying the teams recent roster was the "weakest roster we've ever had in September in the history of baseball,'' drawing the ire of the front office.But Valentine is not the only one responsible for the failed season. Injuries, poor performances, thin rosters, a team coming of an historic collapse in September 2011, plagued by a clubhouse culture of entitlement and arrogance, and other issues all played a part.Red Sox presidentCEO Larry Lucchino and general manager Ben Cherington met with reporters Thursday afternoon and evening in a series of small interviews.The decision crystallized in the last few days, Lucchino said. We all knew that there was a right-after-the-season deadline that we had committed to ourselves and publicly. And so we went a good bit of time without a lot of internal discussion and debate. Occasionally, wed have it, but not a lot because we all valued the respite, frankly, from the intensity of the chatter. In late July or early August we made clear that we were going to deal with it at the end of the season.Valentine was told at a breakfast meeting Thursday morning at Lucchinos home, at which principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and Cherington were also present.Looking back, it is easy to say that Valentine was not the right hire. But he had 15 years of prior managerial experience and came with a resume and a reputation. He was viewed as a very different type of person and manager than Terry Francona, whom he replaced. Given the right set of circumstances, perhaps it could have been successful, but it became clear the 2012 season was far from having the right set of circumstances.I think we felt it was the right hire, the right man, at the right time given the analysis we made of the historic September collapse, Lucchino said. And none of us is afraid of doing things that is out of the ordinary or out of the box. I think baseball in general has a history of relatively conservative practices. The preservation of Fenway Park was a bit out of the box given the attitudes that were prevailing at the time. So we are not uncomfortable with doing things out of the box. But we didnt do it for that reason. We did it because we thought his experience, intelligence, energy, drive was what we needed for the team at the end of last year.Was it a mistake?Oh, its easy to look back with hindsight and say that. I wont put it that way, Lucchino said. I think we made a rational decision collectively with the perspective of several people who participated in it. I was certainly a major supporter of Bobby, but just didnt work out. And all you have to do is look at the scoreboard out there that has us in last place. This is a results-oriented business and we didnt get the result we wanted.After Valentine was given the news, Lucchino said the group stayed for another 90 minutes to two hours to talk about the team, what Lucchino called in a very, I thought, by my likes, in a very constructive, candid conversation about those issues affecting the team going forward.Valentine handled it with a great deal of maturity, Cherington said. The news first and then we did have a conversation and he gave some, he offered some constructive feedback, which I had heard before because Id been talking to him all year about things that he saw that he thought could help us get better moving forward.Some were somewhat structural about how to deal with the various responsibilities of the job, Lucchino said. Some were evaluative regarding his views of certain players and their ceilings.Asked if the conversation included the culture of the team, Cherington replied:I wouldnt want to comment on the nitty-gritty details of the conversation. But when you lose the way we did this year, no matter where that happens or when it happens, the culture is not going to feel as good or look as good. It needs to improve and winning will help it improve more than anything else. But it is something that we need to improve moving forward and there are different ways to do that.The Red Sox will now be looking for their third manager in as many seasons. While Valentine may not have been the right person for the job, it is now a situation in which no team wants to be. Is there anything either Cherington or Lucchino could have done to prevent it?I cant identify specific action that we might have taken or not taken, Lucchino said. I suppose I could if I sat down and thought about it at some length. But I will tell you that there is certainly some sense of accountability or responsibility that we all feel. This is not to suggest the dismal performance of this club is not the sole responsibility of Bobby Valentine. We all have a role to play and have our full share of responsibility with things that we didnt do right, judgments that we didnt make in a timely and appropriate manner. So we, speaking for John, Tom, myself, and Ben has a part of this.We spent a lot of time in the last several weeks looking critically at ourselves, how we got to this point, how we can get out of it, said Cherington. Ive done that with myself. Part of that is player personnel-related decisions, part of it's other stuff. So I can't pick out one thing I could have done differently or we could have done differently to avoid this. We got here. There are a lot of different reasons why we got here and therell be more than one thing that gets us out of it. But thats our focus on it. We felt like this was something we needed to do to provide part of the catalyst for us to move forward.That will begin Friday with the search for a new manager, Cherington said. Neither he nor Lucchino have been in contact with any other teams to get permission to talk to their personnel. Jason Varitek, who joined the Sox last week as a special assistant to Cherington, will be part of the search committee, along with Allard Baird, vice president of player personnel and assistant GMs Mike Hazen and Brian OHalloran.I want to get Jason Varitek involved, and solicit his advice, Cherington said. I think thats important. It was important to me to add someone to the group that has been in a big league clubhouse recently, played a central role for the Red Sox, and he certainly did. So his voice will be heard. And then, as importantly -- most importantly -- collaborate with John, Tom, and Larry throughout the process because the next manager in Boston, any manager, but the next one needs to have all of our support.
Blake Swihart wasn't going to win a job. Monday merely made that official.
Swihart was optioned out as the Red Sox made further cuts, sending a player who could still be the Red Sox catcher of the future -- well, one of them anyway -- to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he's expected to work on his receiving.
Swihart hit .325 in 40 Grapefruit League at-bats.
"Had a very strong camp and showed improvements defensively. Swung the bat very well," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida. "For the player that he is and the person that he is, you love him as a person. He's a hell of a talented player.
"He made some subtle adjustments with his setup [defensively]. That gave him a different look to pitchers on the mound. Pitchers talked positively about the look that they got from him behind the plate. I think it softened his hands somewhat to receive the ball better. And there were a number of occasions where he was able to get a pitchers' pitch called for a strike, so the presentation of the umpire was a little bit more subtle and consistent then maybe years' past."
Sandy Leon's hot hitting in 2016 earned him an automatic crack at the lead catching spot for this year. Combined with the fact that Christian Vazquez looks great defensively, went deep on Sunday and is out of options, Swihart was the obvious odd man out.
He had options, the others didn't.
Deven Marrero was also optioned to Pawtucket. Sam Travis -- who, like Swihart, could break camp with the 2018 team -- was reassigned to minor-league camp, as was catcher Dan Butler.
The Sox have 38 players left in camp, 32 from the 40-man roster.
Righty Tyler Thornburg seems a guarantee to join David Price on the disabled list to start the season.
Thornburg, the biggest acquisition Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made for the bullpen this winter, was scratched Monday because of a spasm in his upper right trapezius — not a great sign for a pitcher who already had throwing shoulder issues this spring.
Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida the spasm was “not shoulder related.” But the trap, a large muscle along the neck and back, does extend to the shoulder blade.
Dombrowski told reporters it is most likely that Thornburg starts the year on the disabled list. More is expected to be known Tuesday, possibly after an MRI.
Robby Scott could be a replacement for Thornburg. If so, the Sox would likely have three lefties in the bullpen, along with Fernando Abad and Robbie Ross Jr.
"Possibly. Possibly," Dombrowski said of Scott. “We still have to make those decisions. But possibly.”
Dombrowski didn’t indicate a desire to go outside the organization for now.
Thornburg had barely enough time to get ready for Opening Day prior to Monday’s setback. If he indeed starts the season on the DL, Joe Kelly would be the eighth-inning reliever for the Sox — a role Kelly was headed for anyway given Thornburg’s shaky spring.
Thornburg, 28, had a 2.15 ERA last season for the Brewers. The Sox picked him up at the winter meetings in a deal that sent Travis Shaw and prospects to the Milwaukee Brewers.