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.
BOSTON – It may just be that all of these slashing penalties and face-off violations will become a training camp fad of sorts and the preseason period of adjustment will give way to business as usual once the regular season opens.
The NHL can’t possibly hope to sell fans on games like the Bruins' 2-1 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night at TD Garden that included 16 penalties and 12 power plays that completely marred the normal game flow. Some of it was about the seven slashing penalties handed out by the officiating crew and the ensuing special teams flow that never allowed either team to truly find their 5-on-5 footing.
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Even more prominent, however, is the frustration that many players from both teams are feeling for the strict enforcement of the face-off rules and the impact it’s having on the flow of the game. Brad Marchand called it “an absolute joke” a couple of days ago after watching the first night of preseason hockey. He doubled down on his criticism after watching it play out in a game.
He said it was so bad that players from both teams were laughing at the sheer absurdity of the standstill face-off posture and just how much it’s taking away from the enjoyment, whether it’s fans, the media or even the officials, of a free-flowing NHL game.
“It’s really taking a lot away from the game. You can’t have a winger taking all the face-offs. I mean if you look at the percentages of how many times guys got kicked out tonight, and what it’s taking away from the teams, it’s not worth what’s coming with it,” said Marchand. “Literally both teams were laughing out there about how bad the rule is. It’s becoming a big joke, so there’s got to be something tweaked with it.
“These games are painful. I thought it was a bad rule before I played, but it’s even worse after going through it and actually seeing what it’s like. It’s basically an automatic [face-off] win for the other team. The only thing you’re worried about is not moving before the puck is shot.”
The choppiness resulted in some pretty bad nights in the face-off circle for the Bruins. Ryan Spooner lost 9 of 10 draws and Riley Nash 12 of 19 face-offs while Claude Giroux somehow won 20 of 25 draws despite the difficulty all around him. While Patrice Bergeron was a solidly respectable 9 of 18 in the face-off circle for the evening, the four-time Selke Trophy made no bones wondering aloud what exactly is the point of all this.
Bergeron is rarely critical of anything despite his standing as a prominent, respected player in the league, but he seemed to take major umbrage with rules that are totally messing with his considerable face-off skills. The Bruins top face-off man likened it to Pee Wee hockey when he was 12 where everybody would just stand perfectly still in the face-off circle until the puck was dropped. That little tweak wrings every last bit of competitiveness and 1-on-1 battle out of the ultimate hockey showdown and has left Bergeron with a bad taste in his mouth.
“I think that the face-off is definitely an adjustment. I think that the face-off is a skill and you work your whole career to develop that and you work on your hand-eye and timing and everything and try to take that away. You have to adapt I guess. It’s something that I’ll definitely do, but I don’t think I’m a huge fan,” said Bergeron. “I wonder what they’re really trying to get out of it. I understand that it’s feet above those lines and sticks and whatnot. That being said it also kind of sucks. Hockey is a fast game and they’re really slowing it down.
“Faceoff is a skill and you work on timing, you work on hand-eye, and you know when the linesman is going to drop the puck. And I was thinking more about him kicking me out than dropping the puck. That’s what makes you second guess. It just makes you hesitate and everyone is just standing there. There’s no battle right now. It’s like face-offs when I was 12 years old. Everyone is just standing still and no one is really moving.”
In an interesting wrinkle to the face-off debate, Bruins forward David Backes is a member of the NHL Competition Committee that came up with the stricter enforcement.
“[Marchand] probably won’t like it, but I was on the competition committee that changed [the face-off enforcement]. I get to hear his gripes and it makes me chuckle a little bit. I think the intent was that all face-offs tended to be ‘scrum draws.’ It wasn’t win the draw. It was ‘don’t lose the draw’ and get the wingers in there, and everything looks like rugby where it’s bash each other together to figure it all out,” said Backes. “The intent was to have a cleanly won face-off whether it’s the second center in there that’s petrified to get a penalty, or it’s the first line center that’s got to be honest.
“The draws are won more cleanly [now] and you can watch it in the games. The puck is dropped and it’s not two guys colliding and banging heads like they’re football players. It’s certainly a skill that needs to be developed. [Bergeron] didn’t like it and he was 50 percent [in his first preseason game], but I bet you the next time he plays it will be 85 percent and it will be a great rule. Because he’s that good on draws and he’s smart enough, he’ll adjust. You’ve just got to be honest. We’ll all maybe have a hug, and life will go on.”
So, what’s the ultimate answer from an NHL that wasn’t tremendously forthcoming with these preseason tweaks and now has a stand-up, influential player like Bergeron kicking it around just like everybody else? It might be time for the league to revisit their face-off crackdown and perhaps get a little more advice from accomplished players like Bergeron for the next time around. But Bergeron, Marchand and others aren’t exactly holding their breath for any more changes. Instead, they simply hope that some of the referees apply a common-sense approach once the regular season begins.
FOXBORO -- In wake of Aaron Hernandez’ estate filing a federal lawsuit against the NFL and the Patriots over the late tight end’s head trauma, Bill Belichick was expectedly mum when asked Friday about CTE.
Hernandez, who died in prison of an apparent suicide in April shortly after being acquitted of a 2012 double-murder, had “the most severe case” of chronic traumatic encephalopathy that researchers had ever seen in a 27-year-old, according to his lawyer.
Belichick, who drafted Hernandez in 2010 and coached the player until his 2013 release, reiterated his September 2016 quote about not being a doctor on Friday.
“That’s really, the whole medicals questions are ones that come outside my area,” he said Friday when asked what the team tells players about CTE. “Our medical department, our medical staff cover a lot of things on the medical end. It’s not just one specific thing. We cover a lot.”
Asked if he feels the NFL does a good enough job of warning players about CTE, Belichick repeated his answer.
“Again, I’m not a doctor. I’m not a trainer. I’m a coach,” he said. “The medical part, they handle the medical part of it. I don’t do that.”
Hernandez was listed as having one concussion during his NFL career.