McAdam: Red Sox owners muddying the waters

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McAdam: Red Sox owners muddying the waters

Perhaps, somewhere in the future, we can say that the Red Sox, thanks to their famed "due diligence'', did the right thing in their excruciatingly thorough search for a new manager.

Perhaps all the time spent, all the interviews conducted, all the mockery invited, will make sense in the end. Perhaps they will, eventually, get The Right Guy for the job.

Perhaps.

But right now, the process appears ludicrously out of control, run not by the upper management and ownership of a model franchise, but instead, a modern-day Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.

If perception is reality, then the perception around baseball is that the Red Sox are turning this managerial search into some sort of slapstick production.

Think new general manager Ben Cherington is having any second thoughts?

Cherington -- along with former GM Theo Epstein, and in hindsight, how foolish was that? -- compiled a list of candidates, vetted them through contacts throughout the game and invited them to Boston for day-long interviews.

From that group, Cherington identified Dale Sveum, clearly, as his top choice. Sveum was invited to the GMOwners Meetings in Miwaukee and presented to ownership.

How do we know that Sveum was Cherington's clear favorite? Because while Sveum was being invited back for a second, follow-up interview, the Red Sox never had anyone else lined up for a return visit. Cherington said as much Tuesday when he said he and others were still "narrowing'' down the other candidates.

But something about Sveum didn't pass the sniff test for the owners. After a two-hour lunch meeting with ownership, the Red Sox weren't prepared to offer him the job. By late Wednesday, the Cubs were sufficiently convinced enough to make Sveum their choice.

Ownership's decision to take a pass on Sveum was a rebuke of Cherington's judgment. And as if to emphasize the point, CEO and president Larry Lucchino answered "absolutely,'' Wednesday night when asked if the team might expand the search to include new candidates.

What message does that send to Cherington, who has focused his first three weeks on the job in identifying and interviewing his choices for the team's new manager?

If Lucchino had walked into the middle of the lobby of the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, patted Cherington on the head and said: "Nice try, kid, but we'll take it from here," he couldn't have embarrassed the new general manager more.

All along, the Big Three of Lucchino, principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner have dismissed any suggestion that the search is unwinding and taking too long.

Daily, they remind everyone how -- all together now -- "Terry Francona wasn't hired until Dec. 8" back in 2003, which is indisputably true.

Here's what else was undisputably true: That offseason, the Red Sox went to Game 7 of the ALCS before their season was through. That meant they were playing into the third week of October. The team didn't pull the plug on Grady Little until after the World Series was done.

This year? The Sox were finished Sept. 28, then clumsily parted ways with Terry Francona two days later. Even allowing for the time it took for Epstein to leave for Chicago, the Sox will have been without a manager for eight weeks, an absurdly long time.

(By contrast, the world champion St. Louis Cardinals replaced Tony La Russa in about 10 days, while the Cubs hired Sveum less than three weeks after dismissing Mike Quade).

In Boston, however, there's no apparent urgency. The contingent left Milwaukee Thursday, with Cherington and other members of the baseball operations team headed for the Dominican to work out some international free agents and the owners presumably headed back to Boston.

No hurry.

Wonder if Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski feels the same way? Or Toronto's Alex Anthopoulos? Or Cleveland's Chris Antonetti? All three have coaches who are still, on the face of it, candidates for the Sox' managerial job, unclear about their own futures.

Now comes word that the Sox are in discussions with Bobby Valentine, yet another telltale sign that ownership -- and not Cherington -- is calling the shots. Henry is known to be a proponent of Valentine and may have already met with him to discuss the job.

The inclusion of Valentine may satisfy those who moaned that there weren't enough "big name'' candidates on the Sox' wish list. But just as surely, he defies Cherington's desire to have someone who will work collaboratively with baseball operations.

Then again, maybe yet another name will surface and be hired before all is said and done.

"Spooky World'' is over at Fenway. But the circus, it would seem, is here to stay.

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

BOSTON — Tyler Thornburg’s gone for the season and there’s really no telling when the other set-up man the Sox expected to help in 2017, Carson Smith, will be back.

The Sox have already made inroads, if minor ones, in bolstering their third-base situation and rotation. Smith’s situation leaves a question of whether the Sox will need to pursue help in the bullpen as well.

There's not an easy answer to settle on at this point.

For one, the timetable with the right-hander Smith — whose shoulder has bothered him on the way back from Tommy John surgery — isn’t clear.

“He's in a no-throw [time] through the weekend,” Sox manager John Farrell said Friday afternoon at Fenway Park. “He'll be reevaluated on Monday to hopefully initiate a throwing program. He's responding favorably to the treatment. He continues to rehab as he's been. We have not closed the book in a sense on anything Carson can contribute this year.”

What does this year mean, though? Will they be able to know by July, by the trade deadline?

“Still too early to tell,” Farrell said. “We thought he was days from starting his rehab assignment after his last live BP session in New York [on June 6]. Unfortunately, that was put on hold for the time being. To get into any kind of timeframes, timetables, I don't know that any of us can predict that right now.”

The Sox relievers have done extraordinarily well without either Thornburg or Smith. Can that continue without reinforcements? The bullpen’s ERA entering Friday was 2.94, the second best mark in the majors. Its innings total, 217, was the second. lowest in the majors. 

So it’s not like the entire group is about to collapse from fatigue. But a guy like Joe Kelly, for example, isn’t someone the Sox want to use back to back.

It’s a young group and ultimately an inexperienced group. But Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has already fallen into the trap of trading for premium set-up men twice, and that’s a dangerous road to pursue again. Perhaps a smaller trade makes more sense.

“Well, at this point, we’re open minded to help,” Dombrowski said when asked if he was targeting either third-base or relief help. “I’m not going to get into specifics at this time on what else we’re looking for. Keep an open mind on a lot of ways on which we can improve. We have guys coming back and both the spots, I think Carson Smith is very important to us and our bullpen has pitched great. The other day, we struggled but that was one of the few times we really struggled all year. 

“I think Carson still has a chance to come back and help us this year.”

Red Sox claim right-hander Doug Fister off waivers

Red Sox claim right-hander Doug Fister off waivers

Right-handed starter Doug Fister, who opted out of his contract with the Angels, has been claimed off waivers by the Red Sox, CSN Red Sox Insider Evan Drellich has confirmed.

The news was first reported by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation, who writes that Fister, 33, will join the Red Sox immediately.

Fister opted out of with the Angels after three Triple-A starts in Salt Lake City, where he allowed seven runs on 16 hits with five walks and 10 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings. 

With Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson on the DL, the Red Sox need immediate starting pitching help. Triple-A Pawtucket call-up Hector Velazquez made a spot start earlier this week in the fifth spot behind Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price and Drew Pomeranz. 

Fister will receive $1.75 million in the majors from the Red Sox, with $1.2 million available in additional incentives, according to Cotillo. 

Fister has pitched eight seasons in the majors, including 2016 with the Astros, going 12-13 with 4.64 ERA in 180 1/3 innings. His best season was 2014 with the Nationals (16-6, 2.41 ERA).