Red Sox manager John Farrell named Greg Colbrunn hitting coach on Wednesday.As weve done with every position on the staff, we sought people who had great communication skills, they had a very solid personal experience level to tap into, Farrell said during a Wednesday afternoon conference call to introduce Colbrunn.And the more we did our homework and found out things indirectly from Greg it became through that process that he was a strong candidate. As we went through the interview process it became very clear that not only does he have a wealth of knowledge as far as hitting goes, but the ability to relate, at least in that interview process, it felt like that would certainly carry over to dealing with our hitters. His fundamental approach or approach to hitting is aligned with what we value. And all things considered, this became a very clear choice as we went through that process.The hiring of Colbrunn nearly completes Farrells staff. He is still looking for an assistant hitting coach. While Farrell said he is not close to naming anyone to that position, Victor Rodriguez, who has coached in the Sox organization since 1995, including serving as the minor league hitting coordinator for the last six seasons, would be a leading candidate for this second position.Colbrunn, 43, played 13 major league seasons with the Diamondbacks, Marlins, Braves, Expos, Twins, Rockies, and Mariners, ending his playing career in 2005 with 11 games for the Rangers Triple-A affiliate. He hit .289 with a .338 on-base percentage and .460 slugging percentage over his career.This is his first major-league coaching job.He has spent the past six seasons with the Yankees Single-A Charleston River Dogs. From 2007-09 and 2011-12 he was the teams hitting coach, and in 2010 he was the manager. His team hit .268, fourth in the 14-team South Atlantic League last season, with a .334 OBP (sixth) and .394 SLG (sixth). Colbrunn is highly regarded within the Yankees organization and has had other opportunities with major league teams in the past. None appealed to him until now.Ive had a couple opportunities in the past, move up or doing something different than being here in Charleston, but nothing ever really sounded too good or anything until this offseason and then this situation came up, the opportunity came up, said Colbrunn, who lives in the Charleston area. After going through the interview process and my wifes being from Connecticut and all that, its a great opportunity.Colbrunn knows he will have different challenges dealing with major league hitters than he had working with young players in the low minors.The biggest challenge we went over this a couple of days ago in the interview process the biggest challenge for me as hitting coach coming from A-ball to the big leagues is dealing with big leaguers and dealing with all their personalities and getting them all locked in on the same page and things like that, he said. But the biggest thing for me as a hitting coach is getting to know the starting pitchers and the pitchers throughout the American League and the National League.Spending six years in A-ball you dont really get a chance to sit around and watch that many games. So getting to know the pitchers, their tendencies, watching our hitters, learning our hitters, and building relationships with our hitters is probably the most important thing thats going to be the biggest challenge.But just going about it on a daily basis and thats part of the challenge to it but thats the fun of it, too. So probably building relationships. And its probably when I first started coaching here in A-ball, it was a little different because I spent so much time in the big leagues and then coming down to A-ball my expectations about players and their talent. It took me till probably about halfway through my first year I had to realize we are dealing with first-year guys and just getting them to show up in the cage every day or keeping them on the same path on a daily basis was the hardest thing. So in the big leagues, they have the work ethic or they wouldnt be there. They can hit, and now just keeping them going good, getting them feeling, build up their confidence and keeping them locked in for as long as you can.Colbrunn said he expects to visit with some of his new players during the offseason, getting to know them, earning their trust.When you start being a hitting coach with somebody its about trust and earning that trust over time, he said. And me coming in and replacing former Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan, who Ive known and I played with him, what a tremendous person and he did such a tremendous job for the Red Sox. Getting to know them, getting to know them on a personal basis, finding out what makes them tick, what they can do, and just trying to start that off instead of waiting till spring training. So over the course of the winter Ill start building those relationships up.Farrell is pleased with the staff he has put together Colbrunn, bench coach Torey Lovullo, pitching coach Juan Nieves, third base coach Brian Butterfield, first base coach Arnie Beyeler, and bullpen coach Gary Tuck.Very happy, Farrell said. In large in part not only because of the experiences and the success that each have had individually, but the people that they are. I felt this was, it was important to have characteristics that each possessed. And I can say to a man that they do. And thats the players well-being, their career thats the forefront of everyones mind. Its not about the coach, its about the player. Yes, we will hold players accountable to the individual needs and to our team goals but to have people that are not only dedicated but they communicate and teach, that common thread, thats a common thread that links all of us together and very excited about the group thats been put together.
CLEVELAND -- Down the stretch in Game 4, the Celtics were desperate for someone, anyone, who could slow down Kyrie Irving.
But short of that, Boston could have used an offensive closer, too. You know, someone like Isaiah Thomas.
GAME 4: CAVS 112, CELTICS 99
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The Celtics have relied on the two-time All-Star to carry much of the offensive burden this season, but he was almost always at his best in the fourth quarter.
A right hip injury knocked him out of this series after 1 1/2 games. Still, Boston managed to win Game 3 without him and, for large chunks of Tuesday night, seemed poised to beat the Cavs again on their home floor.
But as much as Game 4 was a reminder of just how special a talent Irving is (42 points, 21 in the third quarter when the game’s momentum swung in Cleveland's favor), it also provided a clue to the clueless who thought the Celtics were actually better without Isaiah Thomas.
It’s no secret that teams go to great lengths to try and use his 5-foot-9 stature against him. And as we have seen, the deeper we get into the postseason the more trouble he and the Celtics seem to encounter from a defensive standpoint.
But just as we praise Irving for being such a special talent, Thomas has shown that he, too, has offensive gifts that, throughout this season, have left many fans, media and defenders befuddled as to how “the little fella” keeps coming up with one big play, one big shot after another.
But as we have learned, he has been dealing with a sore right hip injury for several weeks. The pain and discomfort eventually became too much to bear and so the Celtics did the right thing and shut him down.
Without him, the C's are still a good team that on any given night can knock off anyone, even the defending champs.
But as Game 4 reminded us, they need Thomas in order to be their best.
When Irving torched Boston’s entire defense with jumpers, ankle-breaking crossovers, Euro-step lay-ups and free throws, the Celtics had no one to turn to who could maybe, just maybe, go back at Irving at the other end of the floor.
That's what Thomas does that makes him such a special, unique talent in this league.
He can score in a variety of ways, with the best in the NBA.
We saw that this past season, when he led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring with a 28.9 points-per-game average.
Boston’s excellent ball movement and high assist numbers are certainly important to the team’s success. But to make a deep and meaningful playoff run, you need one or two guys who can just go get buckets regardless of what the opponent does defensively.
That’s not Avery Bradley.
That’s not Al Horford.
That’s not Kelly Olynyk.
You can search, poke and prod this roster all you want, and you'll come up empty when it comes to finding a player like that . . . other than Isaiah Thomas.
The fact the Celtics were able to avoid getting swept is a victory of sorts in itself. Boston’s coaching staff, as well as the front office, has repeatedly said that as talented as their team is, they aren’t on the same level of the defending champion Cavaliers.
And yet here we are four games into this series and the Celtics are basically a bad half of basketball away from being tied, 2-2.
It says a lot about their mental toughness, their ability to handle and navigate past adversity to give themselves a chance to be competitive against any team -- including the Cavs.
But their success this season has always been about the collective group, regardless of how many late-game shots Isaiah Thomas knocks down.
And while he has his shortcomings defensively, not having him available is going to hurt them in those late-game moments when they need a closer. It’s not a coincidence the Celtics were just 2-4 when he didn’t play during the regular season.
So as cool as it was for them to win Game 3 without Thomas, he’s still the straw that stirs the Celtics emotionally, bringing them to levels few think they're capable of reaching.
They were able to get by for one night without him, but remember this: It took Marcus Smart having an Isaiah Thomas-like game of 27 points and seven made 3’s, for them to win.
No one did anything remotely close to that Tuesday night.
They looked like the Isaiah Thomas-less Celtics, which is a look they don’t need this time of year.
Because that look is so not about winning.
Tom E. Curran and our Boston Sports Tonight crew debate whether the New England Patriots could have restructured Malcolm Butler's contract like they did Rob Gronkowski's.