Results tagged ‘ John Lackey ’

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.”

Game 1 of the Division Series

Under cloudy skies, everyone at Fenway Park is getting ready for Game 1 of the Division Series against Matt Moore and the Rays.

Here is manager John Farrell’s lineup:

Ellsbury; Victorino; Pedroia; Ortiz; Napoli; Gomes; Salty; Drew; Middlebrooks … with Jon Lester starting.

No earth-shattering news in the pre-game hours. Felix Doubront made the final spot on the pitching staff over Matt Thornton.

Rays manager Joe Maddon had a great line, talking about how John Lackey helped pay for his daughter’s wedding in 2002. Lackey won Game 2 of the World Series that year for the Angels, the team Maddon was serving as bench coach for. Obviously Maddon’s postseason share increased greatly with the Angels winning the World Series,

Lester gets the nod for Opener

Jon Lester might have had a down year in 2012, but the Red Sox still view him as an ace. And that’s why the lefty will take the ball at Yankee Stadium on Monday for Opening Day.

After weeks of speculation, manager John Farrell finally made it official on Wednesday morning. Lester will be Boston’s first pitcher out of the gate for the third consecutive season.

The news was revealed just hours before Lester got ready to make his final start of Spring Training against the Miami Marlins.

“The way he was lined up, he was probably targeted all along,” said Farrell. “At the same time, we didn’t want that to be a focal point. His work that was needed and the adjustments that he’s continued to reinforce and repeat on the mound were the priorities. We felt like it was important to focus on the needs of Spring Training for every pitcher, including Jon, before we got into the rotation [order].”

In his first five starts of Grapefruit League action, Lester went 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA, looking a lot more like the pitcher who dominated in 2008-11 than the one who stumbled last year.

“He’s gotten back to a delivery that was similar to what he had in the past,” Farrell said. “I think he’s executing pitches with the consistency we saw before that made him one of the top left-handers in the game. He’s had a very strong Spring Training. “

Right-handers Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster will follow Lester in New York, pitching Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Left-hander Felix Doubront and righty John Lackey will round out the rotation, pitching the first two games in Toronto.

Buchholz is on tap to pitch the Home Opener on April 8 against the Orioles.

Lester was 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA in 33 starts in 2012.

“I didn’t really like what happened last year as far as me and the way I pitched,” Lester said earlier this spring. “That’s solely on me – that’s not on anyone else, that’s not on the revolving door of pitching coaches, that’s not on our manager, that’s not on anybody but myself. I want to prove that last year was a fluke and it’s not going to happen again.”

Deep in the heart of Texas

If the Red Sox seem a little more comfortable in Texas than other road spots, there’s good reason. Their team is surrounded by players who have Texas roots.

Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey all hail from the Lone Star State, as do Scott Atchison, Matt Albers, Kelly Shoppach, Carl Crawford and Will Middlebrooks.

Monday was particularly special for Middlebrooks, who grew up a Rangers fan, living about two and a half hours from Arlington. This was his first Major League game in Arlington, though he played here in high school All-Star Games.

“I remember how hot it was. It was in July before my senior year of high school. I don’t remember much. It was an All-Star game or something,” said Middlebrooks.  “I grew up in Texarcarna which is like two hours from here. But I live here in the offseason now. I have a lot of friends here. I came to a lot of games out here.  I’m excited to play here. It’s a fun place. When I was a kid, i remember watching Juan Gonzalez, Pudge. Who else was here? Rusty Greer. A-Rod for a little bit.”

Manager Bobby Valentine also has deep roots in Texas, as the Rangers gave him his start in  Major League managing from 1985-92. His son still lives here, and Valentine said he has several friends in the Arlington area.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who hit a mammoth home run tonight, played for the Rangers for parts of four seasons before coming to Boston. Adrian Gonzalez played 59 games for the Rangers over two seasons.

Henry, Lucchino talk Epstein, other things

In a wide-ranging interview with WEEI this morning — and simulcast on NESN — Red Sox owner John Henry and president/CEO Larry Lucchino ran through the gamut of topics that have engulfed the club since the season ended way earlier than anyone could have expected.

How stunning is this that you didn’t play in October?

Henry: “I think, weren’t people writing at that point of the season that this was the greatest Red Sox team ever?”

Did you assume the Sox were in? Henry: “You never assume. In other business as well, you never assume that you’re going to accomplish your goals until you accomplish them.”

Lucchino: “I think that was a reasonable assumption at that point, given the lead, where we were in the season. and the statistical probabilities of what would happen. Certainly none of us anticipated a collapse of biblical proportions that we endured.”

Tito was a little cryptic about where it all went wrong, Henry: “Uh, there was some cryptic-ness when we met. You remember, we had problems over the years with certain players. Like Manny Ramirez, for instance, was a problem at one point for the manager. But he had his back, because that’s the clubhouse culture. As a manager, you don’t throw your players under the bus. You do everything you can to make them productive and keep them that way. In this case, we didn’t get any information along those lines at that point.”

Allegations that starting pitchers were drinking in the clubhouse during games? Lucchino: “There are certain principles that are important within the clubhouse culture. I think that’s one of them. it’s not something that we think should be tolerated. There’s a rule about it and it should be enforced. It was much after the fact that that was brought to our attention. We’re still trying to dig in, trying to figure out how pervasive it was, how extensive it was and not try to superficially conclude that it was a major factor in anything.”

When did Titanic hit iceberg? Henry: “We didn’t just hit an iceberg. Every day we went, what, 7-20? This was a team that was going 20-7 and suddenly went 7-20. So it was throughout that process that we began to wonder, why is this team breaking down? This is the second straight year that on Aug. 1 we looked great and looked like we were headed for a potential World Series and second straight year that the team broke down physically. I’ve been reading somewhat what the media has been saying. I haven’t heard enough about that. that was the concern that started at some point during that decline. The biggest concern we had was we’re just not doing well physically.”

Subpar physical fitness? Lucchino: “It’s certainly an issue that’s important to us, physical conditioning. That’s another one of the issues we are looking into examining. It’s our responsibility to try to right this ship and give the fans what we promised when we got here, which is a team worthy of their support. We’re going to do that. We’re going to look into the whole conditioning issue. I take exception to pointing to any individual. I don’t want to talk about any individual in particular. But I will talk about the general notion that our team has to be in first class physical condition. And as John said, the last couple of years, we’ve seen a dramatic decline at the end of the season. That is one of a myriad of issues to look at going forward.”

Pitchers out of shape? You looking into that. Henry: “Yeah, the day before yesterday, I spoke with a couple of our medical people and the trainers and so forth just to try to get an idea. We’re still early in this process and that’s one of the reasons there hasn’t been a lot to say. You don’t want to go off half cocked because one person said this. Talking to a few people, one thing thus far that I’ve been able to establish is that the pitchers did their work. They did their cardiovascular. This organization is as good as any in baseball, I’m told, at doing their work. What is their work? Cardiovascular, shoulder exercise is very important. Very important. We have very little in the way of shoulder problems, as compared to other clubs. They did their leg work. Some of the people, including the person you mentioned [Josh Beckett], are adamant. That’s what they do. They don’t shirk those responsibilities.

“Were there nutritional issues was another question I asked? Yes. I believe there were nutritional issues and there’s just, one of the things we’ve learned in getting involved with English football is they have sports science and the science of fitness is very advanced among football teams around the world, at least the top football teams. So we’ve learned a lot just recently. Our people within the Red Sox have learned a lot. I think there’s much more we can do. to me, the most important thing is this is the third time in six years, and certainly the second straight which a great team just couldn’t make it through 162 games physically. And it wasn’t just one or two players. We were really banged up. We were really struggling to put healthy players on the field. every team has to be able to make it through 162 games. Two years in a row we didn’t do it.”

Tito mentioned something about lack of support/encouragement from ownership as things unraveled: Henry: “I don’t engage in encouragement. My way of encouraging the manager is generally, if we win, I’ll go down and say hello. My experience over the years is they really don’t want a lot of interracation from our level when things aren’t going well. But every once in a while, I will send over the years, I would send Terry an e-mail and basically say, you’re doing a great job, which I did this year, or we’re going to be fine. I’m probably the person inside among Tom and Larry and Theo and Tito, among all of us, I’m probably the person who most often says, we’ll be fine. The problem is we weren’t fine this year. “

Lucchino: “We did make an effort as things were proceeding in the wrong direction in September, certainly we made an effort before games. I would go down on the field and certainly not pep talks, but just try to engage some conversation to show that we were in this together and to try to beat as comfortable as I could around players, the manager and coaches.”

If you had picked up Tito’s option, he would have stayed. Why did you leave that until after the season? Lucchino:  “It was certainly something we considered during the course of the year. you have to go back a step and understand the contract arrangement we had with Tito which was, we gave him a long term deal and we agreed we would not talk about options until the end of the fourth year. We said there would be a 10-day period. The first order of business after the season would be to talk about options but we don’t want the distraction of that happening during the year. because we had it during ’08. The first part of the ’08 season was all about contracts and his situation, dealing with agents and all that. so I think he understood. It’s not something that was  going to happen during the course of the season. In fact, to his credit, he never said what do you think about my option. His agent never called us. There were never any discussions. We always anticipated that discussion would take place as understood, the first 10 days, the first order of business in the offseason.”

Was this mutual with Tito?  Henry: “Well we really didn’t get a chance to make it mutual. Thinking about it, would we have ended up in the same place he ended up? Based on the things we heard and the things we saw, there’s a strong likelihood that we would have. So you could say it was mutual. The way it took place, in my mind, wasn’t really mutual, the way it took place.”

Lucchino: “We had a conversation about, again, that first day after the season, we sat for an hour and a half, two hours, talking about the season. We went through challenge after challenge and various reasons for the breakdown. We talked to tito about whether he was ready for this challenge, given all the challenges he had enumerated. He made clear to us that he wasn’t. You need a new voice down there. I’m not your man for next year. I think my time here is up. In some ways, he took that position and that is a very determinative factor when your manager feels like there needs to be a change. He did a fantastic job for us over the years. remember, he was contemplating his ninth year in this pressure cooker that is Boston. Different teams require different skillsets or different talents and I think he made an assessment with which we concurred that to that extend, it was mutual, and the word mutual does fit. Still, it was a sad occasion nonetheless. There was no joy that day. we had a myriad of problems identified for us and a manager who suggested in pretty clear terms that we should [move on].”

If they made the playoffs, does Tito still leave? Lucchino: “I’m not sure. I think the same process would unfold. We’d sit down as planned the first 10 days. the first order of business after the season, sit down and talk and find out. it takes to tango. Again, we’re talking about the ninth year. Tito was the second longest duration in Red Sox history, 110 years. you have to find if the manager is still ready for the challenge.”

So the Cubs requested permission to speak with Theo, eh? Henry: “How do you know that? how do you know that?

Lucchino:  “Those things are supposed to be kept private and we have a policy of not discussing whether permission has been asked for x or y or z. In fact, every year we get requests for people. We never discuss them publicly. It’s been our policy and our practice.”

You haven’t denied it though, right? Lucchino: “But our position on that is that we don’t comment on requests. We have gotten requests every year. sometimes one or two or three a year. we don’t talk about them publicly. A few years ago, we got a request from another team about Theo Epstein. You heard nothing about that because we didn’t discuss it publicly. I think there’s good reason for it too. There’s some privacy considerations here. I don’t know that people would want their career development or their job decisions to be debated publicly, for people to know what they’re considering or not considering. And I’m not sure the other team would like that to be made public. Our consistent policy and practice is not to discuss whether there’s been a request made for permission.”

Do you usually give permission? Lucchino: “I’ll tell you what we have done. We have done both in the past. There are numerous individual. I mentioned that Theo was one of them in the past. We’ve had a number of our high ranking people move on.”

If Team A comes to you and says, we’d like to talk to Theo, would you grant them permission? Henry, “There is a certain protocol in this game. if someone asks permission for a job that’s not lateral, you give them permission. Now I’m sure there are examples where it didn’t happen. I’m sure we’ve done that in the past.”

Lucchino, “We don’t mean to sound evasive on this but this is one subject where we don’t think there needs to be full disclosure. Our fans have a keen interest in knowing as much about this team as we can possibly know. There are some thigns that come up against the lines of personal privacy, where there are some considerations that should be factored into it, and that’s where we are with respect to this thing.”

Can you hire a manager without knowing who your GM is? Lucchino, “We’re actively engaged in that search for a new manager. We’re not sitting around twiddling our thumbs. There’s a lot to be done. Theo is actively engaged day to day in that search. We just had a meeting with him the other day going through a list of candidates, possibilities. Ben Cherington is actively involved in the process. Certainly John, Tom and I are involved in it as well. That process is moving ahead. It’s not going to happen overnight. There will be some time that will pass. There’s a lot to work to be done and Theo and Ben are knee-deep in doing it. “

Interview anyone yet? “Not yet. I think one point needs to be made. As I look out over the landscape of what’s been said over the last couple of weeks, I don’t think people understand the governance of the Red Sox. when we talk about a manager, general manager issues, when we talk about important decisions that are made here, this isn’t John or it isn’t Larry. We really, over the last 10 years, have consistently done things collectively. This is a collective process. We’re intimately involved in the managers search. It’s not just theo that’s involved. With regard to what happened with the manager’s situation previously, we made collective decisions. We build consensus. When we signed Adrian Gonzalez, that’s not a one person decision. It’s not just the general manager. That being said, we’re very good, sometimes we’re too chain of command;  Larry and I don’t make baseball decisions.”

Lucchino: “Let me just add that Tom Werner is a critical part of this as well, though he is not here today. In this instance, he is an active part of this process. We are a better organization because of the collaboration, the input. If you take Tom and myself, we’ve probably got like 45 or 50 years collectively of running major league baseball franchises. We take advantage of that experience. We collaborate , we debate.”

Theo’s recent struggles with free agents:  Henry: “I think that’s one of the problems in baseball. It’s hard to predict things. it’s hard to predict performance going forward. When I look back over the last 10 years, and the last eight years with Tito being here and the last nine years Theo has been here, I look at what we’ve accomplished, every year, including this year, I felt we were headed to a World Series. Not the only thing, but the biggest thing to us every year is playing in October. that’s what we do. that’s we spend all our time doing is trying to create an atmosphere. People talk about, we’re business oriented. Well we’re business oriented for one reason. This guy is a tremendous revenue generator for one reason, and that is to be able to give the right people the amount of money it takes to be successful. You can criticize the things he’s done but we’ve averaged, what, 92, 93 wins?“

Horrific finish: Lucchino:  “We are not unmindful of that. This was a disappointing torturous end of the season. As John said earlier, we watch every game. we suffer. We’re in this because we’re competitive people. Go back to December 21st, 2001, our very first press conference. The very first thing we said was, we have an obligation to field a team that’s worthy of the fans support. We feel that now. Believe me, it hurts not to be playing right now. This kind of weather. Walking around the ballpark, I keep thinking, we should be playing. It’s cold comfort, the sense of schandefraude that comes from the Yankees losing. That’s not a noble emotion. We have it. but we should be out there playing. We want that every year and we’ve had a good run at it but the challenges next year are real, they’re there and we’re prepared to deal with them.”

Is Theo the right guy to keep spending John Henry’s money?  Henry: “He is but I think everyone has to understand a couple of things and I think Tito alluded to it. I think there’s a certain shelf life in these jobs. You can only be the general manager if you’re sane. You can only be the general manager …. You can only be the manager for a certain amount of time. There’s a tremendous pressure cooker here —  162 games. It’s a long season and the pressure here is 365 days. Theo is not going to be the general manager forever.  Just as , if Tito had come back for the last two years, would he have gone past 10 years, I can’t imagine that he would have. I think that Theo will … he’s the guy now, he’s been the guy. We’ve had tremendous success. We fell apart at the end of the season. As Larry expressed, we’re upset about it. No fan could be more upset than I am about the result this year. He’s done a tremendous job for us over the last eight years.”

Can you hire a manager until you are sure who your GM is? Lucchino, “I think it’s not desirable to proceed that way if you don’t know who this person’s immediate boss is. I’ve been in situations where that has happened. I think the more desirable scenario is the one you first outlined, that there’s a certainty and a continuity with respect to general manager that would be in place before you pull a trigger on a manager but I’ve seen the opposite occur. Let me remind you that we hired Tery Francona some time in late November, it may have even been the first couple of days of December in 2003. There is time to address this issue. This is an important issue, the manager of this team and the manager of this team in this pressure cooker that is Boston.”

Why Tito over Joe Maddon eight years ago? Lucchino: “Theo should be here to discuss that as well. He certainly had a strong opinion on that. They were both good. Two different flavors of ice cream but they were both good. I think at the time, the sense was that Francona’s history was clearer and that maybe the kind of easy rider we understood him to be would be appropriate for that team. That was my recollection of it.”

What do you want in a manager, Henry: “Well, I think what we were looking for last time, in that we have a certain organizational philosophy and we want someone that is highly intelligent. Someone who can communicate with the players and be able to get the best out of the players. I think we lean in general toward player managers. The most important thing for me, if I had to choose one aspect, is that he really fits into our organizational philosophy.”

Could you kick the tires on someone like Joe Torre or Bobby Valentine: “I’m not going to talk about anyone individually. Would we consider experienced well established managers who are not young, who have been around a bit? The answer is yes.”

Can John Lackey bounce back? Henry: “I think so.”

Lucchino: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

How can you say that? Lucchino: “Can he come back? I say yes he can. I’m not predicting necessarily when he will or if he will. But I’m saying can he? Yes. He’s a guy with an established track record. You have to look beyond the past year or so. Again, it depends on what your level of expectation is for various individuals.”

Just because of the recent difficulty with the success of free agent signings, will the Sox shy away this winter? Lucchino, “We’re not going to turn off any avenue to improve this team. Particularly this year. We’re not going to say, no, we’re not going to dive into the free agent market because of the recent record has not been as successful as we might like. No, we’re going to explore free agency, we’re going to explore trade,s we’re going to explore waiver wire, minor league free agents, international signings. We’re going to look at the whole of possibilities. The challenges are very real for this next year so yes, we will explore free agency.”

Do you keep Ortiz and Papelbon because they’ve proven they can produce in this market? “Those players you identify have leverage because of their performance. Their performance has been substantial here and with that comes a bit of leverage, to be sure. Does that mean we can not find players elsewhere that can fit in? we think we can. It doesn’t mean we’re always right but we think we have a process that theo and our baseball operations takes into consideration makeup and ability to deal with this city and Carl Crawford has had one bad year. This is one year of a long term commitment. It’s too early to say this is a guy who cannot play in Boston. We’ll see about that.”

When it rains, it pours

Not only was John Lackey getting hit hard tonight, but then he joined the seemingly unending barrage of injuries that have inflicted the Sox of late.

Lackey left tonight’s game at Tropicana Field after being belted on the left calf by an inning-ending groundout by John Jaso. Lackey actually made a nice play to get Jaso out, but had to be taped in the dugout after that and could not continue.

So Lackey joins Josh Beckett, Erik Bedard and Clay Buchholz as Sox starting pitchers who can be classified as the walking wounded. And that’s without mentioning Kevin Youkilis, who is back in Boston having his ailing left hip looked at.

Just a few days ago, the Red Sox were hoping to win the division. Now a large chunk of Terry Francona’s focus has to be just getting his team to the postseason in one piece.

Still hanging by a thread

The Red Sox managed to stave off elimination on Monday night, not only riding another strong Clay Buchholz performance to victory in Chicago, but also having the Blue Jays do them a favor by beating the slumping Yankees.

Tonight’s battle for survival figures to be far tougher, given the fact the Yankees have their ace going North of the border in CC Sabathia. The Blue Jays counter with Kyle Drabek, a prospect seeking his first Major League win.

The Red Sox go with John Lackey. He will be opposed by Edwin Jackson.

One thing to keep an eye on down the stretch for Boston is milestones. Adrian Beltre and David Ortiz both got to the 100 mark in RBIs last night. Beltre is two homers from 30. Jon Lester can get his 20th win on Thursday night.

Mysteriously mediocre

There have obviously been a whole lot of subplots to digest from the Red Sox’s first half. There was the rough first month. Then the resurgence. Then all the injuries, with the team still managing to keep its head above water.

But one thing has perplexed me for the last couple of months. What is the story with John Lackey?

Obviously, there were great expectations, and rightfully so, when the Red Sox signed Lackey for five years at $82.5 million.

The righty has been decidedly mediocre in the first half, culminating with today’s performance, when he gave up eight hits and seven runs over 4 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays.

Overall, Lackey is 9-5 with a 4.78 ERA in 18 starts. That ERA is nearly a run higher than his career ERA of 3.88. Opponents are hitting .298 against Lackey, 33 points above his career average.

Is it pitching in the American League East? Is it pitching in the pressure cooker of Boston? With the All-Star Game in Anaheim, it would have been a nice story for Lackey to get a ticket back here in a Boston uniform to pitch in his former home. But he never gave that much of a run.

Lackey has given precious little insight into why he isn’t the pitcher he was for all those years in Anaheim. It’s not as if Lackey has been horrible. Far from it. There have been plenty of nights when he’s given the Sox a solid chance to win. It’s just that he hasn’t really gotten locked into any kind of groove.

If he can do so in the second half, it would mean a lot to the Red Sox.

Friday night in Philly

Back to Interleague Play, where I’ve already seen John Lackey execute a perfect sacrifice bunt.

What is imperfect for the Red Sox is that David Ortiz can’t be in the lineup despite being red-hot. Kevin Youkilis is equally hot, but there’s no DH, meaning only one guy can play. Tonight, that guy is Youkilis. Perhaps by tomorrow, it will be Ortiz. But one thing manager Terry Francona said you won’t see this weekend is Youk playing third and Ortiz starting at third. Youkilis hasn’t spent any time at third this season with Mike Lowell on the roster as the backup 3B, so Francona doesn’t think it’s fair to throw that at him now.

In another encouraging sign that ace Josh Beckett will be able to return as soon as his DL stint expires on June 3, the righty played catch before Friday’s game.

“That’s the first step,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “And again I haven’t talked to him, but he will kind of ramp back up throwing, and then when he’s ready for a side, we’ll do that and then take it from there. But I think like we said the other day, we weren’t thrilled about putting him on the DL. But I think if you’re going to err — I don’t know that we did
err — but if you’re going to, we want it to be on the side of caution. I think we probably did the right thing. Now we’ll get him back up feeling good about himself.”

Jacoby Ellsbury will be back in the leadoff spot on Saturday night, which will be a most welcome thing for Red Sox followers.

Game 2 Red Sox-Angels

The 20-hit attack of Monday night was nice. Now the Red Sox will see if they can use it as a springboard.

Healthy bodies could be on the way soon, as Jacoby Ellsbury (hairline fracture left ribs) and Mike Cameron (lower abdomen strain) both appear close to Minor League rehab assignments.

Wednesday will be a festive night at Fenway. Nomar Garciaparra, who retired back in March, wil be honored during a pre-game ceremony. And it is Cinco de Mayo, which make it all the more special for Garciaparra, who is of Mexican descent. The big story Wednesday will be John Lackey pitching against his former team for the first time. Lackey went out of his way to say there would be no extra incentive or added motivation. Do you believe him?

And one final note: It was sad to hear of Ernie Harwell’s passing tonight. I only met him a couple of times, but he was a wonderful man, as well as one of the greatest broadcasters of all-time. Best known for his work with the Detroit Tigers, Harwell was 92. He was simply a legend.

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