Farrell in full preparation mode

923119.jpg

Farrell in full preparation mode

BOSTON Before leaving for Nashville and the winter meetings, which begin Monday, Red Sox manager John Farrell addressed several issues his new team faces this offseason.

On the addition of outfielder Jonny Gomes:

FARRELL: Hes a known team guy and characteristics that were making an emphasis on placing. Obviously hes got a lot of talent and has performed exceptionally well against left-handed pitching. By the fact that he has that reputation around the game and what were looking to add a greater number of in our clubhouse, with the overall emphasis that this is a team.

Has he learned the importance of having high-character guys on his team from his two years managing the Blue Jays?

FARRELL: Its important to have good players and its important to have teams or players that buy into a team concept. And thats not to say that that wasnt the case elsewhere. But I think for us to achieve the level that were looking to, thats a main component of it.

Does he see Gomes as an everyday player or as more of a platoon player?

FARRELL: Well probably take a look at matchups as we get into that. But to say that hes strictly a platoon player I dont think that were saying that. Hell have an opportunity to earn the highest number of at-bats he can. We certainly don't want to limit him in any way.

Until seeing him more regularly in spring training I dont know that I can say how that might affect the lineup, situations late in the game with a lead. I know one thing, talking with Jonny its very apparent hes going to work to great lengths to address any limitations he may have. Whether thats offensively, defensively. Thats the type of guy that he is and has contributed to a winning cause with the number of places hes played.

Has Farrell been involved in the Sox recruitment of free agents?

FARRELL: To varying degrees. That's probably more related to where we are in certain stages with individual guys. I certainly anticipate that being the case going forward.

Is it important for a team to have high-profile players to be successful in the big leagues?

FARRELL: You're never going to not want to take talented players. But more important to that is the success of the team has got that team concept and buy-in. And that's not only an area that's not only being talked about with players that have been here, but what we're looking to add to it. So how we work collectively, and how we work together and how we compete together, you can have a group of individuals but if there's no common thread or common purpose, I think that's just going to make the challenge more difficult.

In naming Victor Rodriguez assistant hitting coach on Friday, Farrell completed his coaching staff:

FARRELL: Well, one, the concept that I felt was important with the two-man hitting coach system because the amount of work both from a time allotment in the cage and the amount of video work, I feel like it is a two-man position. But Victor does have a lot of relationships with guys on this club and certainly throughout the system, and for whoever the lead hitting coach was coming in, once we named that person, Victor was a very easy match to that to give a lot of background information and to be able to contribute in his own right. Victors going to be a very strong addition to this staff.

The coaching staff, along with some front office members, advance scouts, and other personnel, will convene on Friday and Saturday at the teams spring training complex in Fort Myers.

FARRELL: With the exception of bullpen coach Gary Tuck, first base coach Arnie Beyeler, and Victor, weve never laid eyes on that complex. And to have some understanding of it, to begin to plan spring training, so when we start there's no hidden element to this. So I think this will give us a leg up on planning spring training.theres a number of firsts that well get out of the way in these two days.

He will have several coaches on his staff in roles theyve never had on major league staffs:

FARRELL: Really with the exception of hitting coach Greg Colbrunn, who we really havent crossed paths all that much in our pro careers, it speaks to the familiarity with the people and the strong belief that theyll be able to perform exceptionally well in the roles that theyre moving into, and I say that with utmost confidence.

Has he talked with all his players yet?

FARRELL: Not 100 percent. I havent spoken to Mauro Gomez. So Im getting through it. Theres been multiple conversations with other guys. But still working through even the additions to the roster, with the six guys who were added just recently. So its getting to that point.

Does he plan to visit with any players?

FARRELL: I havent ruled it out but Ive been back and forth from here quite a bit. So staff being completed is a good thing because I feel very good about the group. But well see.

Addressing recent trade rumors with Jon Lester?

FARRELL: You take the temperature of their reaction, of what could initially be there. And I know Jon in his own words, wants to prove a number of people wrong. And I said, before we go that far, look at it as a positive, that you're a good player. Teams inquire about good players all the time. You can't change the opinion of others by what you do right now. You can by performing to your capabilities, and that's where our focus has to be.

He's a Red Sock. I think any time that first rumor gets out there, it can be a little startling for guys. But I know one thing: He's extremely motivated and he's working his tail off right now to have a very strong year.

Yeah, clearly its easier to have that conversation since they know each other. You get an understanding through that course of time how they respond to certain things, how their minds work and you can, instead of a feeling out, you can be a little bit more direct in certain cases when it might call for it.

Hes had similar conversations with catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway after the addition of David Ross.

FARRELL: Yeah, I think it's important to communicate to guys what the thought is, and this is a starting point. Certainly not the end come April 1.

On the possibility of the Sox trading one of their top starting pitchers:

FARRELL: Anything is a possibility, but I think until we get there, Im planning for everyone thats on the roster right now to be here. So we have some work to do to get guys back to the levels they performed to before, and that's where the focus is right now.

Has he talked with Lavarnway about possibly moving to first base?

FARRELL: We haven't had those discussions, because there is so much focus and emphasis on his development as a catcher, that's where the focus continues to be. With his offensive production as a catcher, he starts to put himself in a small group. There's ongoing maintenance and work to be done there, but no that's where the focus is.

Has he talked to right-hander Alfredo Aceves yet?

FARRELL: Briefly. We've had some brief conversations, a number of messages left. Colorful. He's a talented pitcher. And he can do some things in the game that he may be the only guy who can do them. With the frequency in which he can pitch, to the number of pitches thrown, he's a talented guy.

I think from my standpoint, the approach taken is to be candid with him, to be consistent with him, both in terms of what we value in guys approach, but as best can be communicated to him in his role. And that will evolve going forward, but I think the most important thing is for him to understand where he sits with us, how we view him, and what his role is, and then he can best prepare for that.

Not definitively determined his role yet. We certainly feel like his frequency of his availability as a reliever is a major asset.

How does he view left-hander Franklin Morales role coming into spring training?

FARRELL: Our plan is to have him come in and prepare as a starter. You can always go back the other way, obviously more readily than trying to lengthen out toward the end of camp. But what he did in the rotation last year for the time he was there was very impressive. Not to say how our rotation is going to look come spring training, but he did a good job in that role.

Would he like to have more depth at shortstop:

FARRELL: That's a conversation that's ongoing. It's Dec. 1 and I know the winter meetings are starting and the markets taking shape and things will start falling into place, but that's all part of a number of moving parts.

His thoughts on Pedro Ciriaco:

FARRELL: When you consider that he was a minor league free agent, thats a darn good player. Athletic, can do a number of things. I know there was an attempt to put him in center field, which when you look at a player with his skill set, that's a natural thing. Hey, if he can play center field, boy, then his value really starts to increase.But good first-step quickness, plenty of arm strength to play anywhere on the field, he was, I don't want to say a great find, but he was a heck of an addition when you consider how he came to the big leagues through that path. A lot of value there.

How eager is he to have his full roster?

FARRELL: As much as everybody else that follows the Red Sox. General manager Ben Cherington is going to put together a damn good roster, and Im fully confident in that.

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

BOSTON – With his new head coach Brad Stevens and Boston Celtics ownership and front office officials surrounding him, Jayson Tatum’s mind seemed to be somewhere else briefly.

He looked ahead, way, way ahead to the other end of the Celtics’ practice court where there were banners, lots of banners, raised high above all else in the gym.

This wasn’t just a passing glance, either.

TATUM SPEAKS

It was clear that the newest Celtic was in deep thought as he stared at the 17 banners and the one left blank, a steady reminder of what this franchise is about, past and present.

Yes, it’s a lot to soak in for anyone let alone a 19-year-old kid whose career with the Celtics can be timed on a stopwatch.

But the soft-spoken 6-foot-9 forward has been here long enough to understand that success around here is about more than playing well; it’s playing to win a championship.

And that in many ways separates Tatum from his teenage brethren who made up the majority of Thursday night’s NBA draft which included an NBA-record 17 players taken in the first round who like Tatum, were just one year removed from high school.

All come into the NBA with lots to learn, as well as goals and aspirations for this upcoming NBA season.

During an interview with CSN on Friday, I asked Tatum about what in his mind would make for a successful season.

And his answer initially was to ask me a question, “Individual or team?”

So I replied, either one.

“To get back to where they were last year and get over that hump,” he said. “Championships, chasing that number 18, that would be the ultimate success for me.”

That served as a reminder as to why despite having a handful of players under consideration at No. 3, the Celtics did the right thing in selecting Tatum.

His words may seem like the politically correct response, but take a look at the kid’s basketball resume and you’ll quickly see he is indeed about winning and doing so in whatever way possible.

After missing his first eight games at Duke with a foot injury, Tatum gradually improved as the season progressed and wound up on the all-rookie team as well as being named to the All-ACC third team.

Once the Blue Devils got to the ACC Tournament, Tatum became a different, better, more dominant player.

Indeed, Tatum led the Blue Devils to their first ACC championship since 2011 and did so in historic fashion as the Blue Devils became the first ACC school to win the conference tournament with four wins in four days.

Late in the title game against Notre Dame, Tatum put together a sequence of plays that speaks to why the Celtics were seriously considering taking him with the number one overall pick had they not been able to trade it for the No. 3 and a future first-round pick.

With the scored tied at 65, Tatum made a free throw that put Duke ahead.

Moments later, he blocked a shot and finished off the play with a lay-up that gave Duke a three-point lead.

After a Notre Dame basket, Tatum connected with a teammate for a 3-pointer that pushed Duke’s lead to four points with around a minute to play.

And then there was the 3-point play Tatum converted after getting fouled on a dunk which secured a 76-69 Duke win over the Fighting Irish.

Free throws. Blocks. Getting out in transition. Passing.

When his team needed him most, he gave whatever was required at that moment which is one of the intangibles that makes Boston feel good about his future.

“He does whatever he has to do to help you win,” said an NBA scout who said he has seen Tatum play “at least a dozen times.”

He added, “Like all of these kids coming into the league now, he has some things he has to get better at, get more consistent with. But he makes winning plays, whether it’s for himself or others. He’s a lot more unselfish a player than he’s given credit for being.”

And he’s 19 years old, which is both a blessing and a burden when you’re an NBA team executive charged with committing at least two years and millions of dollars into a young man.

Part of the process when making a draft choice, especially when it’s one of the top picks, is character evaluation.

Of the players at or near the top of the draft board, multiple league executives contacted by CSNNE.com in the past couple of weeks said this was an area where Tatum stood out in comparison to all of the top prospects.

“He’s the kind of young man you’d love whether he was a basketball player or not,” one Western Conference executive told CSNNE.com. “If you’re ranking guys on character alone in this draft, he’s your number one pick.”

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, acknowledged the challenge of differentiating between miscues made by a teenager as being problems of concern going forward, or whether that’s a teenager making the kind of bad/questionable decisions most teens make.

“It’s dangerous to play too much into a 19-year-old kid’s behavior,” Ainge told CSN’s A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper on Friday. “But I think that, with all the things we do, from physical, emotional, mental, character, work ethic and their skills … it’s just really hard at 19. You hate to just be labeled what you are at 18.”

But in regards to Tatum specifically, Ainge added, “Jayson is a high character guy. We know he will get better because of his character and his work ethic.”

Said Tatum: “It’s a great feeling. Being part of a great organization like the Celtics; think of all the great players of the past and you can follow in their footsteps.”

And in doing so, blaze a trail of his own in the pursuit of Banner 18.

David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

red_sox_david_price_062417.jpg

David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

BOSTON — David Price and Rick Porcello showed improvement on back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday, important signs for the Red Sox after a difficult month for both pitchers prior to this homestand.

Price on Saturday night went six innings and allowed three runs, two earned, in a 6-3 loss to the Angels. He fanned five and his velocity has been consistently better this year than last year.

But the most important number was his walk total: one. He walked three batters in his previous start, and four in both of his starts prior.

“Two outings ago, the first start here in Fenway,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “There was better timing in his delivery and overall better separation over the rubber. And he carried that through I thought, even though there's a higher pitch count in Houston, and has been able to maintain it here. I can't say there was one specific thing. It's been more the timing over the rubber. And you're seeing him pitch out of the stretch exclusively. Just less moving parts in a better position to repeat it.”

After Price’s final inning, the telecast captured Price calling pitching coach Carl Willis into the tunnel. Neither Farrell nor Price detailed the conversation. 

“Yeah, everything was fine,” Farrell said of the conversation. “Everything is OK there.”

Price made it sound like he’s dealing with some sort of physical ailment, but was vague.

“There's a lot of stuff going on right now,” the pitcher said when asked about the desire to stay out there. “You don't want it to linger into the next start, or two or three weeks from now, and that's why we did what we did.”

Asked to elaborate, Price reinforced that the decision was to save his body for another day.

“You never want to come out of a game. But you have to look forward at the time,” Price said. “You don’t want today to cost you your next start or you know, the start after that. So that’s what happened.

“It has nothing to do with my elbow or anything like that. This is — you get past one thing and there’s another So that’s what it is.”

Price in New York in early June felt a blister develop on his ring finger. He missed an in-between start bullpen because of it.

Asked about the blister Saturday, Price said, “That one’s gone.”

Farrell indicated the blister was diminished, if not entirely gone.

“He's been dealing with that,” Farrell said. “I think while it's still present and maybe not as severe as it was when it first happened, I'm sure he's going to check on it occasionally."