Sox' managerial choice will reveal level of trust in Cherington

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Sox' managerial choice will reveal level of trust in Cherington

Almost nine weeks after it began, the Red Sox managerial search is wheezing to a close.

Sometime before the end of the week -- but not Tuesday, despite a report to the contrary on Monday night -- the team expects to unveil its replacement for Terry Francona. That the two lone remaining candidates for the job are Bobby Valentine and Gene Lamont , each improbable finalists in his own way, is a somehow fiting conclusion to a bizarre process.

Baseball sources indicated that Toronto Blue Jays first base coach Torey Lovullo has been eliminated from consideration. That much seemed already obvious when Lovullo was not invited to meet with ownership following his initial interview.

That leaves the Sox to choose between Lamont and Valentine, who beyond their ages (Valentine is 61 while Lamont will soon turn 65) and their major league experience (Valentine has managed 15 years in the big leagues; Lamont has 8 seasons under his belt) couldn't be more different.

Where Valentine is loquacious and highly opinionated, Lamont is resolved and unassuming. Where Valentine can be confrontational, Lamont is more likely to resolve issues quietly.

Initially, neither was on general manager Ben Cherington's short list of candidates for the position. That initial group included Sandy Alomar Jr., Mike Maddux, Pete Mackanin and Dale Sveum.

When Maddux ruled himself out of the Boston search, Cherington added Lovullo and Lamont. Of Lamont in particular, Cherington said he wanted to include someone with more major-league experience and Lamont got glowing reviews from a number of people throughout the game as an experienced hand in the dugout.

In retrospect, it may well be that Lamont was added as a concession to the owners, who voiced a desire to have candidates with more experience.

Of course, the owners already had a veteran manager of their own in mind -- Valentine -- though one that they weren't ready to acknowledge publicly.

The public perception has been that Valentine is the choice of both principal owner John Henry -- who has known Valentine for better than a decade -- and team president Larry Lucchino, while Lamont is the compromise choice of Cherington and the baseball operations staff.

If that's the case, the eventual hire will be revealing. If Valentine is the choice, it will signal that ownership took control of the managerial search and imposed their choice on Cherington.

Should Lamont be the hire, it would signal a willingness on Cherington's part to buck ownership's recommendation, and, in turn, a show of faith on by ownership that Cherington can be trusted to make such a decision, even if it's at odds with ownership's preference.

That alone marks a potentially fascinating subtext to a search process which has had more twists and unpredictable turns that anyone could have imagined when it began two months ago.

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.