Cherington on the state of reeling Red Sox
For the second time in 15 days, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington expressed faith in his highly-underachieving team and forecasts an in-season turnaround that may not have to occur because of blockbuster trades.
Trades aren’t the be all-end-all at this point: “I don’t know about moves. We’re obviously not happy with where we are. Ultimately, we’re 18-25, that’s not up to our standards, that’s not where we want to be ultimately. It’s up to me to find a way to make it better. We still believe it’s gonna get better. We believe we’ve got a very good team ahead of us this year. Most of that is still going to come from within with guys here performing, getting back to a level they’re accustomed to and then if we can do that and start playing a little better and win some games and hang in there, we’ll try to find anyway we can to make improvements to the team as the summer goes on. At this point, this early in the season, we’re still just mostly focused on the guys that are here and finding a way to play better with the guys that are here.”
Pressed again about making moves, Cherington offered this: “I think there’s a need to play better and there’s the need to find ways to get better and all sorts of ways and again, that’s my responsibility. Not saying we wouldn’t consider moves. It’s just that this early in the season, typically, you’re sort of talking other teams into doing things and that doesn’t always leave you in the best position to make deals. I wouldn’t rule it out but, we’ll see. Because of that, look, we’re gonna get Victorino back, we’re going to get hopefully our core lineup out there more consistently moving forward and we believe in that core lineup and that core group of players and we believe we have a lot of wins in us with that core, without adding to it. if we can add to it, whether it’s sooner or later or towards the deadline in a way that makes sense, of course we’re going to work to do it in a way that makes sense. Again, that’s up to me. But just mostly focused still on the guys who are here.”
Injuries no excuse: “I wouldn’t assign it to injuries. We’ve had some injuries. Every team has injuries. I think our job is to be good enough and deep enough to play through the injuries and still win games and hang in there through the tougher times. So I wouldn’t assign it to injuries. It would be better not to have injuries. I don’t know. it’s a variety of things. I think we would have guessed coming into the year that in all likelihood we would face a little more adversity this year than we did last year. it’s just the way baseball goes and we have in different ways. Offensively, we just haven’t clicked in any sort of consistent way. we’ve been in most games because we’ve been running pretty good pitchers out there most often whether it’s the starters or the bullpen mostly keeping us in games. We just haven’t clicked offensively and I can’t point to one thing. for the reason, we know we have to get better. We believe we will. We’re not there yet.”
How much longer can they go with Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr.? “You know, we’ve got to play better and you’re talking about two very different players there so in jackie’s case, he’s playing really good defense, he’s grinding, he’s making offensive adjustments. He’s here working every day to get better.He’s a very important guy for us and we feel he’s the right guy to be our center fielder. In Grady’s case, we’ve seen flashes, as I said 10 days ago. I think he would tell you he hasn’t’ been as consistent as he’d like to be. Hasn’t made the impact as he’d like to. Look, we’re all in this together, we know collectively we’ve got to get better. We all have to perform better, that starts with me. And we just have to make that happen. we’re not ready to proclaim that this has to happen or that has to happen or there needs to be any particular move. We just have to play better.”
Pressed again on Sizemore: “He’s here. He’s one of our 25 guys. John’s trying to put him in positions to succeed. We believe Grady Sizemore is going to be a good Major League player again. We’re going to do whatever we can to help him be that guy here. We’ll see. We just have to play better, the whole team has to play better. I have to do my part. If we all do that, we’ll look up and things will look a lot better 10 days from now.”
On the struggling offense of the outfield: “Well it’s still evolving you know? We came into the year obviously thinking in left field we were going to have something analogous to last year, a combination with Gomes and Nava or some other left-handed hitter. In right field we certainly expected Victorino out there, we hope that he will be out there soon. And in spring training the question was on center field and ultimately Grady played his way onto the team and then we had an injury so Jackie ended up on the team and his defense was so good that he kind of takes over. Look we expected Jackie to be our center fielder of the future back this winter, we just didn’t know what date that was going to start on. I don’t think anything has really changed there. We just haven’t had that corner group out there consistently and we haven’t had the production out of the corners that we thought we would and need to have.
Cherington didn’t say if part of the agreement of Drew’s contract was that he be recalled after the minimum 10 days were used in his Minor League option: “I don’t want to get into the specifics of our discussion before signing him but we definitely felt like given where he was physically at the time of the signing that it wouldn’t take him a long time in the minor leagues to be able to help our team. There’s a different between being at maximum capacity and full speed with perfect timing and all that, there’s a difference between that and helping a major league team. And we felt like Stephen drew made us a more complete roster, a better, deeper roster, even if he was still working on some things. So we signed him with the understanding that assuming he physically checked out that he’d be on the team son, as soon as we could and that’s the way it turned out. We don’t have any regrets for that. We also knew we might have to manage his playing time a little bit early on, so it’s not unexpected that he’s getting a day here and there. All the reasons we signed him are still in place and we’ll see how it works out.”
In hindsight, did Cherington need more outfield depth going into the season? “I guess you can never have enough right? We felt we did. There was a combination of guys including Nava, Carp, Gomes, Victorino, Bradley, Sizemore, Brentz and down the line we felt we had enough good players, enough good options to be deep enough in the outfield. There has been a combination of underperformance to some of those guys and injuries to others that kind of tapped into that a little bit, so it showed up. Ultimately it’s my responsibility to figure that out and get better. We felt that we did have enough depth. To this point we haven’t gotten the production out of the outfield that we need to. We still feel like we can and it’s up to us to figure that out.
Cherington was stunned to see it written somewhere that the Red Sox signed Stephen Drew because of pressure in the media, and staunchly denied it: “False. I was really surprised to see that today. We know Stephen Drew really well. We signed Stephen Drew because I made a recommendation to ownership to sign Stephen Drew. We had been talking internally for a little while, and then on a Friday, our third baseman got hurt, and we expected, based on the initial evaluation, that Will might miss a significant amount of time. At that point, during that game, we were 20-20, and scratching and clawing for every win and certainly right in the mix in the AL East. We had known, if there was an area on the team that we wanted to add some depth to, it was the left side of the infield. It wasn’t a reflection on any of the players we had. We want as many good players as we can for each spot. It happened to be that Will got hurt, Stephen Drew was still out there, he was a free agent, and we felt like, if we didn’t sign him, we might be in position to have to make a trade at some point and give up talent to address, potentially, an area of need, so we have a guy who we trust, who we like, who’s a good player, who’s a trustworthy player, who’s been here and done that who’s available to sign without giving talent, so we did it. I made that recommendation, and I would make that recommendation again.”
Trade Jon Lester if the team falls out of contention and there is no progress with his contract situation? “We haven’t even thought about that. Jon’s focus is to go out and pitch every five days and help us win, and he’s done a very good job of that this year. We’re trying to support him in any way we can. Our position hasn’t changed. We hope to have a conversation again about his contract. We’d love to find a way to keep him here. But right now we’re just trying to win games and stay in this thing. I believe we will. When we do, we’re going to want Jon Lester pitching for us down the stretch.”
John Lackey might retire rather than pitch for the player minimum that his contract dictates next year? “No. I have not heard anything about it. That’s the first I’ve heard of it. I don’t know — I’m not sure I’m the person to respond to it. This is more of a question for John, I guess. But I know that, the way he’s pitching right now and what I know of him as a competitor and how much he likes being in the clubhouse and how important it is for him to compete and be a guy, I would certainly expect him to want to keep playing, and he certainly looks like a guy who’s going to keep pitching for quite some time. I haven’t heard anything about that, and obviously our expectation is that he’s going to be here.”
On Clay Buchholz: “Physically, he says he feels good, and we were able to identify a couple of things in the delivery that he thinks and we think can help him. It’s likely a gradual thing, right? It’s not going to be — typically players don’t go from struggling to lights out overnight, but there are some tangible things that he’s identified that will help him, and he’s been doing that. He’s been working on that. He’ll pitch in the minor leagues a little bit to start, and we’ll see where we are.”