Winter Meetings interview with John Farrell

Winter Meetings interview with John Farrell

Q. We were talking to Dave upstairs about how you guys have worked together since August. How has that been for you since you've come back, and how has that grown over the last month or so?

JOHN FARRELL: I think just with the frequency of either organizational meetings, Winter Meetings, player transactions, the recruiting process of a number of players that we were involved with, those have been vehicles for a lot more communication than taking chemo. There's been a lot more frequency of interaction, and yet while he's been thoroughly entrenched in supplementing our roster, there's a lot that we have yet to even approach, namely Spring Training is one. How he's been exposed to it or what he's been familiar with in the past, we sit down and meet with every player before camp opens up. I'm not sure Dave has done that in the past. But it will be an exchange of thoughts and past experiences that will arrive to Spring Training, but beyond that will be certainly how we're playing as a team and the decisions that will stem from that.

Q. Ben obviously is the GM who hired you. When all of that transition happened pretty quickly, and maybe unexpectedly, how anxious were you kind of at that time as to what would happen? Understanding you were involved in other things.

JOHN FARRELL: I was obviously dealing with another situation that probably dominated my thoughts at the time. Disappointed that Ben is still not with us for the obvious reasons, he bringing me here or back to the Red Sox. But as Dave mentioned earlier today, we did have a couple of two-hour meetings initially when I first got there, or when he first came in. So that was a chance to at least better familiarize one another. But still, coming out of the treatment and realizing remission, yeah, there's been much more interaction since then.

Q. Do you guys just have sort of like a nodding relationship prior to that?

JOHN FARRELL: No, because I was involved with the discussions that were centering around every decision, even at the time that Tory was on an interim basis, but I was involved with every decision along the way. That was -- with player movement, with rotation changes, day-to-day type things, there was still involvement with that. Thankfully, that is behind us.

Q. Prior to Dave coming to the Sox, did you have much conversation with him at all or just say hello?

JOHN FARRELL: No. Say hello, more surface. Really there was no need or opportunity to interact much. Always respected what his path has been from afar, and now, of course, I have a chance to work with him.

Q. John, from a local station here in Nashville, David Price is obviously our guy. What was your initial reaction when you found out you guys got him?

JOHN FARRELL: Surprised. I knew that we had a real opportunity, but any time you're talking about a player of that caliber, you know that there's always going to be attention or interest in a player like that at the highest level. Knowing what our needs were to bring in a player and a pitcher such as David felt like -- as soon as I heard the word that we'd agreed to terms, there's the thoughts that run through your mind quickly of what the benefits are going to be with David leading our pitching staff. That's what I'm most excited about, and certainly getting to know him. We had an opportunity to come down here and have dinner with him. I found him to be so engaging and much more personable when he's not across the field. So that was really an enlightening experience here.

Q. We know what he brings on the field, but just kind of the tone that he sets and the work ethic in the locker room as well.

JOHN FARRELL: All that is extremely positive, and if it weren't, David wouldn't find himself in the situation he's in. He earned this opportunity by who he is as a person and what he's been able to do in between the lines. We're starting to see firsthand all the comments by former managers, former teammates, former coaches, how positive an influence he is in the clubhouse and what he means to the performance of your team.

Q. His contract that size, what does it take for a guy to be able to stand up there and be the face and perform like you expect him to?

JOHN FARRELL: Setting aside the number on the contract, he's a leader. He's comfortable in that position. He's comfortable -- it was very evident in the press conference how genuine he answered questions. I think he relishes being in a spot where he's an example to others.

Q. John, the issue of Pablo and Hanley, is that as big an issue for you as anything with this team again to produce as you think they should be?

JOHN FARRELL: We need them to produce, there's no doubt about that. And talking to both guys, they're working extremely hard right now to get back to the years of performance that they've had in the past. There's every ability to do that. I know Pablo is very conscious of and has expressed disappointment in the way things turned out last year. I think we expected more and certainly need more from them to get to the level we envision ourselves, and that's to contend for a World Series.

Q. Hanley said you guys might go down to work him out or check up with him in the Dominican. What are the plans to work him out and doing things with first base before Spring Training? Is there anything formally?

JOHN FARRELL: Not yet. Whether or not he reports to camp early is to be determined. We've been focusing on the physical needs that he has. That was the shoulder, low back, hamstring. Those are markers that are very detailed in the physical workout planned for him. So we're confident that he's making progress along those lines. We've resolved the winter ball issue, and knowing that the physical foundation is the priority.

Q. Looking back, John, what do you think was the reason or reasons why Hanley maybe struggled with that transition to the outfield early in the season?

JOHN FARRELL: I don't know that he ever got comfortable in the position, and while he was in that phase trying to get his legs underneath him as a left fielder, he collides with the wall. I think that had a lingering effect on his work in the outfield. I can understand that. The impact he had with the wall that day was substantial, and I think that the constant focus on the defensive side of things and maybe that not happening as naturally as we felt might have taken away from the offensive side of things a little bit.

Q. John, how comfortable are you with the state of the rotation after David?

JOHN FARRELL: Very good. I really think guys are going to be able to -- and when I say guys, I think the remainder of our rotation will be able to go out and pitch with a focus of just who they are as individuals. There was so much made in Spring Training last year who's the ace, and I still firmly believe -- and I won't back away from the comment that it takes five number ones. The guy going to the mound that night is our number one guy, and I will continue to have that kind of confidence in every starter that we have. I think with David's presence here and he being the leader and the focus of our rotation, I think guys have the opportunity to go out and perform naturally to their abilities.

Q. You've seen some teams, I think Tampa Bay in particular, be relatively aggressive, pulling starters even when they're having good games, after five innings or so. With the bullpen you guys have, do you think you can be more aggressive, if need be, that way?

JOHN FARRELL: Yeah, and I think the operative thing in that is if need be. What you still have to be careful of is how many innings is that bullpen going to pitch over the course of a full season. You're managing the bullpen for an entire year, not just a given night, but a healthy Clay Buchholz and a consistent one to go along with David Price and Rick Porcello and their innings capability, that all of a sudden gives us three very formidable guys who have the ability to pitch close to 200 innings in a given year. So we have the ability to have some length in that bullpen, depending who that 12th guy is, whether it's Steven Wright, any number of candidates for that spot. So we've got plenty of capability out there in addition to having power guys to finish innings off.

Q. Last year Christian was going up to Spring Training as the starting catcher. Obviously, he had the injury. How do you look at that situation going into the spring with three guys?

JOHN FARRELL: I think Christian is going to answer a lot of those questions once camp opens up. He's not going to play any games until we get into the games scheduled at Spring Training. What he's going to need as far as recovery time in between games caught remains to be seen. So that will kind of answer itself as we get deeper into the game schedule.

Q. How do you think it factors in just based on what you saw of him last year?

JOHN FARRELL: He factors in prominently. Of all the young players that took a step forward last year, Blake probably surpassed our expectation because he came long before his anticipated arrival date because of need, and he didn't just survive, the second half of the year, he hit with a lot of consistency, over .300, and far surpassed all of our expectations the way he performed.

Q. John, to the best of your knowledge, has Christian cut it loose at all in the throwing he's done before games in Puerto Rico?

JOHN FARRELL: No. He's stretching out to 120, 150 feet, but not to the point where he's throwing bases yet.

Q. So you don't want him to do that until you see him?

JOHN FARRELL: Right.

Q. Are all indications good at this point?

JOHN FARRELL: Yes, it's good. There's been no setbacks or alterations to the throwing program, but he's batting in the DH role and not actively catching.

Q. More rehab before he starts?

JOHN FARRELL: Will be. He didn't have his surgery until, I want to say, June. So he's still a ways away.

Q. Do you guys have enough offensively where you can look at the catcher position as a defensive first position for you guys?

JOHN FARRELL: We prioritize the catchers to have the -- getting the most out of the pitching staff nightly to be the priority, but I wouldn't look at that position as a position we're just carrying offensively. No matter who we speak of, the three guys that we talk about, they've got the ability to contribute offensively, and Blake certainly. But I wouldn't look at Christian Vazquez as just a defensive oriented type catcher. He's got the ability to contribute in the bottom part of the order.

Q. Where do you feel Blake is at defensively game calling? What kind of strides would you like to see him make?

JOHN FARRELL: The strides are going to have to come in the consistency of blocking. He can be a little hard at times where he's not controlling the ball in the dirt like you'd like to see. But that's not because of lack of effort or lack of work towards accomplishing that. That's kind of the final phase of his defensive efficiency to come along. Game calling, we saw a smart guy behind the plate really learn from the information available and the teams that he was executing a game plan. He's a smart kid and works well with each pitcher he caught.

Q. You're asked this periodically. Do you have any plans at all to try him in other positions at some point, or are you just completely focused on catching?

JOHN FARRELL: Focused on catching right now.

Q. Whose your level of confidence with Jackie and Rusney that they're able to make that next step and be everyday guys?

JOHN FARRELL: They're going to have the opportunity to. Again, when we talk about 2015, the emergence of young players every day, and those two guys showed the ability to do that, even though it might have been inconsistent at times. I think that's where Chris Young's availability to us on this roster and keeping him in the mix allows us to give a breather if needed or when needed. But both Jackie and Rusney, we feel are poised -- they've gone through that initiation, that transition period. So we're going to need them to produce.

Q. You look at the guys that you brought in, Price and Kimbrough and Chris Young, and they're considered good club house guys. When you went into this off-season, did you guys sort of -- they're obviously very good players, but want to sort of get back to that 2013 dynamic.

JOHN FARRELL: You know, I don't know that you're ever not looking at adding quality people. Ultimately, we're in a people business, and we're betting on individuals. These are four guys -- we have to include Carson Smith in this as well, they come with very strong reputations on and off the field and the teammates that they are, so we feel like each are going to make a positive impact.

Q. Tom, when you add Price, obviously, he has the talent, but do you think he can be a leader in the rotation right off the bat, or do you think he's more getting used to the surroundings coming into Spring Training?

JOHN FARRELL: There'll be some transition coming into a new city, but David's a genuinely confident person. He is certainly approachable, and he has all the characteristics that you would characterize as a leader. We know that of him. Even though we've not been in the same dugout before, you see it across the field, and we're confident his transition to Boston will be a seamless one.

Q. John, going back to Blake, his rate dropped from the minors when he went into the majors last year. With a rookie catcher, that can happen a little bit. Do you see him improving that caught stealing record a little bit in the coming year?

JOHN FARRELL: Well, that's a combined effort of all of us to improve when he's behind the plate. That goes with the guy on the mound and how he's controlling the running game. There's so much more information available when a young player comes to the big leagues that, if there's any deficiencies, they can be exploited much quicker, much quicker than at the minor league level. So that's not an uncommon trend initially to see. Blake is an aware kid with a great work ethic and a bright future ahead. So we've got some things to tighten up with him, but every confidence that it will take place.

Q. Going back to Pablo and Hanley, what do you think they need to do to be more comfortable in terms of fan expectations and media scrutiny?

JOHN FARRELL: There's no replacing experience, and they've lived it for one year. Both, I think, will come in better physical condition to maintain a level of performance deeper into the season. But I think, most importantly, they've lived Boston for one year, and they know the potential distractions that could be there and to remain focused on what they can control, and that is their work ethic, their preparation, and how they execute inside the lines.

Q. Obviously, you guys finished at the bottom of the division last year, but when you look at the way you played, especially over the last two months, does it feel like there's not as big a gap entering the off-season, that there wasn't as big a gap between you and the top of the division as maybe usual?

JOHN FARRELL: I think we're always confident that we're going to perform well. When we talk about the young players making the step forward that they did, that's probably as big a reason as any going into this off-season that we had a chance to make up sizable gains in the division. When we've been able to address the pitching staff, that's certainly going to go a long way into accomplishing that, but this is a balanced roster, as we stand today. Who knows if there's going to be other changes. But we're looking forward to the start of camp and getting things under way.

Q. John, you have a history with John Lackey. Joe Maddon says he likes that edge. He's excited to see that edge introduced into their clubhouse. How have you seen that type of personality play in the clubhouse?

JOHN FARRELL: Talking about John specifically, we were able to take advantage of a highly competitive guy. It's infectious. Another guy that can be vocal but yet back it up with his performance. And you're looking for the personality of your team to come from within, and that can go a long way into making others believe and gain confidence in the way one of your pitchers or one of your players carries himself on the field.

Q. John, I love David's answer in his press conference about being winless the whole season?

JOHN FARRELL: I do too. I'm look forward for it to play out.

Q. Is that just an anomaly for a guy of his skills?

JOHN FARRELL: It's more situational. Even if you go back to this last postseason, he carried a shutout or a one-run lead into the seventh inning at Kansas City. There was another left-handed that was pretty good that didn't win a postseason game until later on in Randy Johnson. I think those are more situational than to say that there's a specific reason as to why it hasn't played out in the postseason.

Q. Guys, you guys have finished last in the division --

JOHN FARRELL: Thanks for the reminder.

Q. Just stating a fact. Very tightly packed division from last to first really. I'm just wondering what each of the teams, what you see in the division going forward?

JOHN FARRELL: It's always going to be highly competitive. We play in such a unique division, particularly when you look at the ballparks. It's always dangerous. You can't say that you've got -- because you have a team that is maybe strong on the mound, it's going to play out because of the dimensions of the ballpark, it's going to be unforgiving at times. There's always going to be, I think, every effort made to combat the other four teams in your division based on the lineups you have. In Toronto, you've got a heavily right-handed hitting lineup. So you look for personnel to attack that specifically. But you've got a lot of smart people running every organization. We don't anticipate there ever being large gaps, 1 to 5.

Q. John Gibbons said you might be the most athletic team in the American League. Do you feel that you'll be able to implement the way that you want to play more than you have in the last couple of years?

JOHN FARRELL: The potential is there, but I think the one thing that's most clear is, when we talk about the athletic players, they're guys that have come up through the system. So they've been exposed to the style of play the last three and four years. It's not like we go into camp trying to implement a different thought or a different approach, and we're going to be aggressive in these types of situations. That has been happening over the last three or four years. Or let's say as Mookie's gone from A ball all the way to the big leagues, or even a Brock Holt, who's come in from another organization, he spent enough time here to know what we value in terms of our base running, the style of play that we try to put pressure on the opposition. Our young players have been ingrained in that before they come to the big leagues.

Q. Given the uniqueness of this division, how comforting is it that so much of Price's track record is in the AL East?

JOHN FARRELL: And a lot of it in Fenway. I thought it was really telling how comfortable he is on the mound in Fenway because of the view that home plate gives to him and the feeling that he's so close to home plate. That's a huge boost in confidence. But the AL East is no surprise to him. We're glad he's in our uniform.

Q. John, do you think Brock will ever -- maybe not ever, but this year have a chance to compete for a job in any one position? Or is he kind of aware of what his role is?

JOHN FARRELL: I think he's well aware of what he is and the role he has, and he relishes it because we've had conversations in the past and his thoughts on the versatility, and it keeps the game fresh for him. The defensive responsibilities to other spots on the field, it keeps him on his toes, and I think you watch the free agent market and what Ben Zobrist is going through right now, he's in a good place. He's in a good place.

Q. John, just to get your thoughts on Kenta Maeda, you probably watched him last year in Japan.

JOHN FARRELL: He pitched against the MLB team last fall, yeah.

Q. What are your thoughts on him? Do you think there's something special about him?

JOHN FARRELL: A polished pitcher, when you consider the number of types of pitches, the definition of the pitches that he can throw. I was impressed with -- and surprisingly, there was more velocity than anticipated to his fastball. He pitched an extremely strong game against us, and I know that's one game look, but to see one game in person, from a physical standpoint, there was more stuff, more power, more velocity than maybe than advertised.

Q. On your rotation, you have collectively one season -- aside from David, there's been one season of a guy hitting 200 innings, and that was Porcello doing it once. So sacrifice a guy like Miley, who was a pretty steady 200 innings a year guy, how comfortable are you that you guys are positioned to have the right distribution of starters?

JOHN FARRELL: We feel very good about the five guys that project to start opening day. I think, when we look at our starting rotation, personally, I look deeper than the five that you see as opening the season with us. Health certainly will dictate a lot of how much each pitcher is going to be able to carry the load. So I think there's three legitimate candidates that can pitch 200 innings, and a sizable and manageable jump for Eddie Rodriguez, pitching a full six months and more at the big league level, you'd say there's going to be more than 175 innings there. So we feel like we're in good shape in terms of the projected number of innings to be thrown by each.

Q. John, respectfully, who are -- Porcello, Price and who else do you think could get to 200?

JOHN FARRELL: I think Clay Buchholz will get to 200. I think two years ago it was 178, which is probably the highest he's thrown. I think he's capable of that.