Boston Red Sox

Sox introduce elated Valentine as manager

601572.jpg

Sox introduce elated Valentine as manager

BOSTON Over the last few years, Bobby Valentine had come to accept that his managing days might be over. Instead, in what he called a dream situation, the Red Sox introduced him Thursday at Fenway Park as the 45th manager in team history.

I was doing good and exciting things, said Valentine, who has been an ESPN analyst, is the director of public safety for his hometown of Stamford, CT, owns a restaurant, and has organized charitable works.

There were a lot of different things I was doing. And I was getting paid to do things a couple days a week at a kings ransom. So how can you not be happy with that situation?"

But . . .

"Did I dream about this situation? Absolutely. Did I wake up and put water on my face whenever I had that dream and said, Hey, cmon, go back to thinking abouthiring a new fire chief for Stamford? Yes, I did. Im a realist. And I saw the game as it was changing and I saw it, obviously, getting younger. I saw it getting kind of different. And I didnt know that I could ever fit in. Now, Im maybe going to fit in.

The Sox signed Valentine to manage for two years, with team options for 2014 and 2015.

Hes the right man for the job, said principal owner John Henry. The right man at the right time for this particular team. We are set to win. We should have won last year. We are built to win. We thought in the end that Bobby was the person most capable of taking us to where we want to go 2012 and 2013 . . .

"Were not at a point right now where were building for the future. We are trying to win now. We always try to do both, but we felt he was the right person as the right time for this team.

Valentine takes over a team that finished third in the American League East, out of the playoffs for the second straight year, after posting the best record in the A.L. through Aug. 31. He is a veteran of 15 major-league managerial seasons with the Rangers and Mets, compiling a record of 1,117-1,072. Hes also managed over parts of seven seasons in Japan. Valentine currently ranks fourth among major league managers in games, with 2,189, and wins. But, he has not managed in the major leagues since 2002, after a tumultuous seventh and final season with the Mets.

Hes learned from those experiences, he said. Still, he prefers not to focus on them.

"To take all this time that we have, which is very valuable time, and delve on the past is not productive, he said.

Valentine, 61, has more than 40 years in the game, since being a first-round pick of the Dodgers in 1968 draft. Words that have been used to describe him range from brilliant and genius to polarizing and egotistical.The Sox were happy with the whole package.

We want him to be a creative, energetic, strategically wise field manager who has learned from his experience from his past and I think he has, said Sox presidentCEO Larry Lucchino. I think he admitted that today.

We did talk about his experience with the Rangers, the Mets andJapan. We talked about all those things.

I feel very strongly we found the right person in Bobby Valentine, said general manager Ben Cherington. He has an enormous baseball intellect. He is creative, he is open-minded. He is certainly passionate and he badly wants to win.

Cherington is not concerned with the perception that Valentine was not his pick, but rather the pick of those above him in the Sox hierarchy.

It's just not true, Cherington said. We went through a very thorough process. We talked to a lot of candidates. We did a lot of research on a lot of candidates. At the end of the process, I think it was Monday, I made a recommendation to ownership, I believe it was sometime Monday, that we offered the position to Bobby.

Ownership, as they absolutely should, was very involved in the process.

For the first time in his major league career, Valentine is taking over a team from the start of a season. With both the Rangers and Mets he was a midseason managerial replacement. He wouldnt allow himself to think his new job was a real possibility until he received an e-mail from Cherington earlier in the week telling Valentine to stand-by for another e-mail.

Valentine is a little uncertain exactly when he got the first e-mail.

I was in Japan, and it was 8:37 a.m. on November 29, he said. But I dont know if that was here or there. It was night.

Valentine, who enjoys hero status in Japan, was there on a charitable mission, an outreach after the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country in March. His new status has not quite sunk in yet.

I wish I was smart enough to explain all this stuff, he said. I think Im going to have to almost look back and reflect and figure out what this whole thing is. Maybe its a little jet lag, too. I keep coming up with the word special. Its the most different day of my life. Ive never, I havent experienced this. Ive had uniforms on for the first day. Ive had a press conference. I could tell you, what the hell, everyone knows, this is different.This is, today was absolutely different. And I feel special.

Valentine grew up in Stamford yes, on the Yankee side of the mythical line that determines loyalties. The first major-league game he saw was as a young boy was a Sox-Yankees doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. He sat between his Yankee fan father, and his fathers younger brother, a Sox fan.He knows all about the ancient rivalry.

I might take a little of that craziness away from some of the players, he said. Because I know that they learn to hate the 18 days they play each other each season. It is an awful lot. And its so big. Its so much. And its so important, not only to the franchises, but to the fans, to front office, the ownership."

Valentine has 80 days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.Hell spend that time poring over stats, watching video, and reaching out to the players. Hes managed just one Sox player previously shortstop Marco Scutaro, who already has a place in Valentine lore. Clashing with then-Mets GM Steve Phillips in 2002, Valentine wanted an outfielder called up. When he was given Scutaro, Valentine sent Scutaro in to play the outfield. Scutaro, inevitably it would seem, misplayed a ball, leading Valentine to say Phillips had told him Scutaro could play the outfield.

Asked if he would treat pitcher Josh Beckett, who was at the center of much of the disreputable behavior that plagued the team in its crippling September spiral, differently, Valentine responded, somewhat cryptically:

I think the most unfair thing you can do is treat people who are different the same way. So I think he will be treated differently. Was that alright? I think I said that right.

And so begins the Bobby Valentine era at Fenway Park.

Red Sox rally for 5-4 win over Reds, extend AL East lead

red_sox_rafael_devers_092217.jpg

Red Sox rally for 5-4 win over Reds, extend AL East lead

CINCINNATI - Rafael Devers hit a three-run homer Friday night, and the Boston Red Sox extended their AL East lead to four games by overcoming Scooter Gennett's fourth grand slam of the season for a 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Boston added to its lead with the help of the Yankees' 8-1 loss at Toronto. The Red Sox have won 12 of 15, keeping the Yankees at bay while moving a season-high 25 games over .500 (89-64).

Their AL Cy Young Award winner is still struggling heading into playoff time.

Rick Porcello gave up Gennett's fourth grand slam - a Reds' season record - in the first inning. He lasted a season-low four innings, turning a 5-4 lead over to the bullpen. Porcello has lost 17 games - most in the majors - after winning 22 last year along with the Cy Young.

Part of Porcello's problem has been a lack of run support. Boston has been blanked while he's on the mound in 10 of his losses. This time, the Red Sox got him off the hook, overcoming Gennett's career-high 27th homer with the help of Devers' three-run shot off Sal Romano (5-7).

The Red Sox are last in the AL with 159 homers.

Left-hander David Price (6-3) pitched 2 2/3 innings and contributed a single, bringing the Red Sox to the front of the dugout for a celebration. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 34th save in 38 chances. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 10 appearances.

Gennett was claimed off waivers from Milwaukee late in spring training. He has provided some of the Reds' best moments in an 88-loss season, including a four-homer game on June 6. His homer off Porcello ended the Red Sox' streak of 26 straight scoreless innings.

CSNNE SCHEDULE

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

pomeranz_redsox_082317.jpg

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.

MORE RED SOX:

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.

CSNNE SCHEDULE