Boston Red Sox

McAdam: Uncertainty mounts on Epstein's future

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McAdam: Uncertainty mounts on Epstein's future

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

Days after the Red Sox parted ways with manager Terry Francona, there is increasing speculation that, soon, the club may do the same with general manager Theo Epstein.

As rumors intensify that Epstein may be interested in listening to the Chicago Cubs, a strange silence is emanating from Fenway Park.

When speculation first arose that Epstein was at the top of the Cubs' list of choices to replace the fired Jim Hendry as general manager, the most frequent line around Fenway was: "John Henry will never let (Epstein) go."

Months later, the landscape has changed, and just maybe, so has Henry's stance.

Certainly, the Red Sox have had more than enough opportunities to make this a non-issue. Days after reports about the Cubs having interest in Epstein surfaced, Henry sent an e-mail to inquiring reporters, noting that such speculation was pretty standard stuff and evidence of Epstein's reputation throughout the industry.

Had Henry been more pointed and noted that Epstein was under contract to the Red Sox through the end of 2012, and that Henry hoped and expected Epstein to continue as the club's GM for years to come, the speculation would have stopped then and there.

But Henry wasn't nearly that assertive. So the issue didn't die.

Then, last Friday, as CEO Larry Lucchino and chairman Tom Werner fidgeted uncomfortably during a press conference, the question was asked again: Would the Red Sox give the Cubs permission to speak with Epstein.

Improbably, Lucchino looked like he had been struck by a bolt of lightning, apparently caught completely off-guard that during a press conference to announce the Sox severing ties with their manager, that someone night happen to inquire about the job status of the man who hired that manager.

Lucchino said it wasn't the time to discuss Epstein's future and that the focus of the press conference was squarely on Francona.

Werner than stepped in and fumbled through a response that was more of a non-sequitor.

"We feel collectively that he's one of the best managers in baseball," said Werner, "and has been integral to the success of our club for the last 10 years."

Swell, but no one was asking for a summation of Epstein's tenure. The question was about whether he would be allowed to talk to another prospective employer.

Again, nothing definitive, nothing that would slam the door on such speculation.

Epstein's current deal runs out after 2012, meaning the Red Sox have two choices: Allow Epstein to interview with the Cubs, or give him an extension which locks him up for at least two seasons beyond 2012.

If the Sox are willing to let Epstein go elsewhere, they should get on with the business for preparing for life without him. Finding a manager is going to be challenging enough; if ownership has to first find a general manager, and then the newly-minted GM has to hire a manager, it will be mid-November before all the pieces are in place.

If, on the other hand, ownership is intent on keeping Epstein, then an extension for Epstein is necessary. It would be impractical and unfair to allow Epstein to conduct the managerial search with his own future in doubt.

What potential manager wouldn't be wondering: What happens if the guy who hires me is out of a job in a year?

It's a logical enough question, one ownership hasn't given much consideration.

Epstein hasn't spoken to reporters since Friday and didn't return numerous calls. A person who spoke to Epstein over the weekend was asked if he thought Epstein would indeed leave for the Cubs.

"I don't think so," said the person. "But at this point, I don't know if anyone knows for sure."

And the longer the silence continues on Yawkey Way, the more uncertain the winter of the Red Sox' discontent becomes.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

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Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz may not actually be the No. 2 starter for the Red Sox in this year’s presumed American League Division Series. Maybe the Sox will mix in a right-hander between Pomeranz and Chris Sale.

Still, everyone knows which pitcher, in spirit, has been the second-most reliable for the Red Sox. A day after Chris Sale notched his 300th strikeout and on the final off-day of the regular season, it’s worth considering the importance of the other excellent lefty on the Sox, and how much he’s meant to a team that’s needed surprise performances because of the lineup’s drop-off.

Per FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Pomeranz is the second-most valuable lefthanded starter among those qualified in the American League (you know who's No. 1). He's one of the 10 best starters in the AL overall.

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Pomeranz, 28, was a first-round pick seven years ago. But he didn’t exactly blossom until the last two years. He has a 3.15 ERA in 165 2/3 innings. His next start, if decent, should give him a career-high in innings after he threw 170 2/3 last year.

Pomeranz is a 16-game winner, just one win behind Sale. The value of wins and losses is known to be nil, but there’s still a picture of reliability that can be gleaned.

Is this the year Pomeranz became the pitcher he always envisioned he would be?

“I don’t know, I mean, I had a pretty dang good year last year,” Pomeranz said, referring to a 3.32 ERA between the Padres and Sox, and an All-Star selection. “I think these last two years have been kind of you know, more what I wanted to be like. But I still, I don’t think I’m done yet, you know what I mean?”

Most pro athletes say there’s always room to improve. Pomeranz, however, was able to specify what he wants. The focus is on his third and fourth pitches: his cutter and his change-up. 

“My changeup’s been really good this year,” Pomeranz said. “That’s something that still can go a lot further. And same with my cutter too. I still use it sparingly. I don’t think me just being a six-inning guy is the end of it for me either.

“You set personal goals. You want to throw more innings, cover more innings so the bullpen doesn’t have to cover those. Helps save them for right now during the year.”

Early in the year, Pomeranz wasn’t using his cutter much. He threw just nine in April, per BrooksBaseball.net. That led to talk that he wasn’t throwing the pitch to take it easy on his arm. He did start the year on the disabled list, after all, and cutters and sliders can be more stressful on the elbow and forearm.

That wasn’t the case.

“The reason I didn’t throw it in the beginning of the year was because half the times I threw it went the other way,” Pomeranz said. “It backed up. Instead of cutting, it was like sinking or running back. I mean, I pitched [in Baltimore] and gave up a home run to [Manny] Machado, we were trying to throw one in and it went back. So I didn’t trust it.

“Mechanical thing. I was still trying to clean my mechanics up, and once I cleaned ‘em up and got my arm slot right, then everything started moving the way it was supposed to and then I started throwing it more.”

Pomeranz’s cutter usage, and how he developed the pitch heading into 2016, has been well documented.

The change-up is more of an X-factor. He threw five in each of his last two starts, per Brooks, and it’s a pitch he wants to use more.

“It’s been good,” Pomeranz said. “I think I could throw it a lot more and a lot more effectively, and ... tweaking of pitch selection probably could help me get into some of those later innings too.”

Well, then why not just throw the change more often? Easier said than done when you’re talking about your fourth pitch in a key moment.

“I throw a few a game,” Pomeranz said. “Sometimes you feel like you don’t want too throw it in situations where you get beat with your third or fourth best pitch. I mean it’s felt — every time I’ve thrown it it’s been consistent. It’s just a matter of, it’s something me and Vazqy [Christian Vazquez] talk about, too." 

(When you hear these kind of issues, which most pitchers deal with, it makes you appreciate Sale’s ability to throw any pitch at any time even more.)

Speaking on Wednesday, the day after Pomeranz’s most recent outing, Sox pitching coach Carl Willis said he thinks the change-up’s already starting to have a greater presence.

“He’s kind of always had a changeup, and he hadn’t had any trust or conviction in that pitch,” Willis said. “I was really excited last night that he used the changeup more. He threw it. He doubled up with it on occasion. Something that’s not in the scouting report.

"It’s his fourth pitch and he seldom threw it in a game and he’s in a situation where, OK, the change-up’s the right pitch, but location of whatever I throw is going to outweigh [selection]. Now he’s starting to gain that confidence [that he can locate it]. 

“I think that’s going to make him an extremely better pitcher. I thought it was a huge factor in his outing last night. Because he didn’t have his best velocity. He really did a good job of changing speeds with the changeup, and obviously with the curveball and being able to give different shapes of the pitches.”

The Sox already have the best left-hander in the AL, if not anywhere. The AL's second-best southpaw happens to pitch on the same team, and has tangible plans to be even better.

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

BOSTON — Red Sox chairman Tom Werner doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of the the Yankees, MLB disciplinarian Joe Torre, and players who can’t take criticism from broadcasters.

In a spot Thursday with WEEI, Werner made clear David Price’s handling of Dennis Eckersley was unprofessional.

“Boston is a tough place to play,” Werner said on WEEI’s Ordway, Merlonia and Fauria. “Some players thrive here, and some players don’t. Get a thicker skin. My feeling is, let the broadcasts be honest, be personable, informative, and get over it if you think a certain announcer took a shot at you.”

“I thought there was a way of handling that. It wasn’t handled appropriately. If I’ve got a problem with Lou [Merloni], and I hear something he says on the radio, I’ll say to Lou, ‘That wasn’t fair.’ ”

Werner also called the team’s relationship with the Yankees “frosty” following the public sign-stealing saga that resulted in fines for both clubs.

“The fact is, I do think this was a minor technical violation,” Werner said. “I start with the fact that this was unfortunately raised to a level it never should have been raised to.”

Werner also insinuated he did not approve of how MLB and Torre handled the disciplining of Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who receieved a four-game suspension for his part in a fight against the Tigers (reduced on appeal to three games).

“Do you think Gary Sanchez got an appropriate punishment?” Werner asked.