Winter Meetings interview with John Farrell

Winter Meetings interview with John Farrell

Q. John, who is your Opening Day starter?
JOHN FARRELL: Oh, geez. Are you sitting in for Johnny Miller or what?

We'll have plenty of time to figure that out. But the way that Rick emerged last year -- first of all, just you think about Chris Sale as an addition, you think about the returning guys, another year in the progression of Eddie Rodriguez, I think as he continues to understand who he is as a pitcher and what makes him the most effective, David Price obviously, Steven Wright, get him back on track. And that's not to leave out Drew Pomeranz or Clay Buchholz.

There's a surplus right now, but when you think about the high end of it, this is an exciting group.

Q. Understanding there's a long way to go, but if you had to pick a guy or guys to be in the bullpen, if you come in with six starters, do you have an idea?
JOHN FARRELL: I think the first thing you do is you look at who has done it before. This past year, Clay being the first year that he's had experience or exposure to the bullpen; Steven Wright broke into the bullpen; and for the better part of Drew's career, he's pitched out of the bullpen.

There's options to make that choice with and it's also a situation where you get through spring training, and who is pitching the best to give us a chance to get off to the best start possible. It's December 6. Plenty of time for things to happen, too.

Q. What about having four lefties, possibly four lefties in the rotation?
JOHN FARRELL: I don't look upon that as being a disadvantage in any way. I'm sure people would look at Fenway Park saying, what's the better alignment.

But the flipside of that is what if you had five right-handers in your rotation, is there an issue with that. You're taking the best guys you have.

Yeah, we've got four very talented starters that are left handed. So I don't think that number is detriment by any means. I think it's an advantage to be honest.

Q. What does Chris Sale give to you? What do you like about him as a pitcher?
JOHN FARRELL: Setting numbers aside, I've always seen a guy that when he takes the mound, there's an attitude or a personality that he exudes when he's on the mound. And I think team will always kind of, I don't want to say completely morph into that attitude on a given night based on the starter on the mound, but that is an influence on what you project across the field.

He's highly competitive, to go along with an elite talent. So I look at the intangibles as a reason why he might set himself apart from the group.

Q. What was it like to see Dave go after this deal, especially with the context that you already have Price and Porcello, but to say you have a chance to get Chris Sale, let's do that, too?
JOHN FARRELL: First, you've been around the Red Sox a long time, and the ability that our owners give us to acquire the best available players, that support can't be understated. We've obviously had players in place to be able to make these trades, but we were talking about it in the suite earlier. This is Dave's second year as our GM, president. When he targets a guy, he gets him.

I think there's a lot to be said for his boldness, his aggressiveness, and even if it's not -- he's not really worried about what the perception is. He's most concerned with acquiring players that are going to allow us to win the most right now.

Q. This deal obviously is not a simple one. There was competition from other teams. When do you feel based on what you were exposed to and knew what was going on -- when did you feel like you were going to get this guy?
JOHN FARRELL: Probably not until this morning. That went right down to the last hour. And I'm not privy to every conversation he has with the White Sox, but he certainly keeps everyone up-to-date as best he can.

So as momentum was building, and there's -- what we're fortunate to witness is there's a little bit of an ebb and flow of a potential deal.

So as it looked like at times, you know what, it wasn't going to happen; it was too steep, too rich, and to maybe some adjustments and only hearing one side of and, and not knowing what else was being offered. But it wasn't until this morning we knew Chris was coming to Boston.

Q. Brian Cashman called you guys the "Golden State Warriors of baseball." What's your reaction?
JOHN FARRELL: We love our team, and there's a lot of reasons for it; a young, athletic group that's returning. But there's a lot into it and you have to execute.

You can put all the big names you want on a roster, but it's going to be important for our guys to buy into us as a team, to understand that we are here and we're working towards winning a championship, and that's going to require certain players accepting their roles inside of this team.

So as long as their focus is what's best for our team first and not individual players, we should be okay.

Q. When there's sort of speculation over the last eight months about a Chris Sale trade, a lot of people thought, pieces off your Major League roster would have to be part of that deal, and you gave up a lot in prospects obviously, but as a manager, what is your reaction of doing this without touching your core?
JOHN FARRELL: Great point, because this was starting to come to a head, to think that we were going to be able to acquire Chris without taking someone off our 25-man roster; and granted, Travis Shaw, he'll have to go to Milwaukee for Thornburg.

But the core of our team, or the majority, any of the majority of our team was not going to be disrupted. That's what really grabbed your attention. And that speaks that we were allowed to do that because of the players in system. He's a great fit for a number of reasons.

Q. As you look at a bat in the lineup, where do you want to play Hanley? Do you want to see him at first base every day or mix it up a little bit?
JOHN FARRELL: I think with the way our lineup projects, he's going to get more at-bats in the DH slot than he did last year. I'm not going to say he is going to get more than at first base, but we've got the ability to move some people around now.

And you see his comments from David's event this past weekend; Hanley has done a great job of putting himself in a position physically to withstand the number of games to play first base last year. He had a comeback year in his own right.

He's just been a very good team player and his comments are reflective of that.

Q. If he's going to be at DH more than first, who is going to hold down first base?
JOHN FARRELL: I don't know that our roster is complete yet. I don't know who that will be.

Q. On that topic, we haven't heard much about Sam Travis's physical progress. Is he completely healthy, all systems go?
JOHN FARRELL: By the time spring training starts, yeah, we expect him to be on the field. How he responds to the volume, we've got to work through that.

Q. Had he had close to a full season at Pawtucket, obviously that part of his development, having lost that, and with only a few weeks of AAA, going back to the previous year, how far behind is he in terms of becoming a factor this spring?
JOHN FARRELL: I'll be able to answer that question better once we get in games. I will say this: You know, his exposure to big league staff, the big league environment last year was impressive.

Now it's spring training; I get it. He's a good fastball hitter. How he handles a complete assortment of pitches as he advances, time will tell about that. But when you talk about a guy who is driven and is a fierce competitor, he kind of fits the mold that you're looking for. It's unfortunate that he ran into the injury that he had, but we expect him to be on the field full go when camp opens.

Q. You talk about Pablo at third, and you opened a competition, but the only perceived competition would be Brock Holt. Is that a legitimate competition?
JOHN FARRELL: Yeah, at this point, Brock is certainly not forgotten in this mix. We talked about Travis's trade over to Milwaukee, Panda all of a sudden jumps back into the mix, full fledge, as the guy we signed a couple years ago. Brock is very much in the mix and will continue to do so.

I don't know that our roster is complete at this point, either. That's all a work-in-progress. But I have to commend Panda for the work he's put in. He's got two years to maybe redeem himself on. We don't kid ourselves. Those first two years were rough for him. But he's driven, he's committed. Had a chance to talk with him earlier today. He's up for committing to his teammates and knowing he's got to do a better job for everyone.

Q. Does he still tend to switch-hit; do you know?
JOHN FARRELL: Yes, he does.

Q. Obviously everybody is different, but when you see the comeback year Hanley and the comeback year Porcello had, does that give you optimism that Sandoval could get back to where he was?
JOHN FARRELL: Totally. And now that he's put the shoulder issue behind him, he's again, done a great job of getting in better condition. And I would think he sees those living examples in the same room with him; that these things are possible, and the opportunity is going to be there to do that.

Q. In the span of a few months, you guys have a couple of moves now dealing young, high-ceiling starting pitchers in the farm system in exchange for pitchers with present success. How much is that a reflection of just the difficulty of developing those guys into Major League contributors, and is it important going forward to kind of find those guys that you think are home grown pitchers in the pipeline?
JOHN FARRELL: Dave mentioned earlier, you can never have enough and ideally you have a pipeline that is producing with levels of them making their way through the system.

We are in a situation where there was a need to improve our current big league pitching staff, and the guys that were targeted to bring back were lower-level guys that are two, three years away, that, okay, those moves hurt. But with the mind-set of doing everything to win now, that's where the trade-off comes.

You're always hopeful and striving for pitchers to be developed and transition and begin their career here.

Q. You talked a lot about urgency last spring. That was a buzz word. Do you feel you'll take a similar perspective on urgency this spring?
JOHN FARRELL: Yes, I do. And I think for our young players to take that next step, we can't just assume there's a carryover. There's an experienced game, and there's a lot of confidence that has been developed. But to just suggest that we pick up where we left off, no. We've got to go back out and earn from day one to have another strong year.

Q. Would you give any thought, now that you have traded away two guys, will you give any thought to having Swihart play third?
JOHN FARRELL: We're focusing on catching with him. I think last year there was a need because of the left field situation. There was depth behind the plate.

But I think for the betterment of all of us, and most importantly for Blake, we have to be consistent with him and develop him behind the plate.

Q. You saw Otani in Japan several years ago, and he had 10 home runs and now he has 22 home runs.
JOHN FARRELL: He's getting better. I don't know what's going to take place with that. And we don't make a habit of commenting on other players in other organizations. We're well aware of how talented of a guy he is. I'm sure there's a lot of people that are attracted to Otani.

Q. Chris Sale has bullpen experience, he wouldn't be a consideration? (Laughter).
JOHN FARRELL: No. You jest.

Q. Some of the young players at the end last year said that the playoffs, the guys who had not been there before, kind of a learning experience. When you look back at the totality of last season, was that the step forward? You got there, you got a taste and now it's the next step?
JOHN FARRELL: I think the way we're performing in the second half was a major step forward. You're in a pennant chase, you're in the playoff hunt through the regular season; you win a division. That's the first major step.

Having now that group be able to say, yeah, we did get to October; so there is a taste. I think hopefully that creates a greater drive and a deeper hunger to go deeper, but those are all progressive steps that are important along the way. I think they learned a lot about themselves individually.

Particularly as the wear and tear of a full 162 games of highly competitive games versus what was 2015, those are all experiences for the first time, and they will serve them well going forward.

Q. Did Joe Kelly exceed your expectations with the way he pitched out of the bullpen?
JOHN FARRELL: I don't want to say exceeded them. I thought he showed better understanding of his stuff and how to use it. His slider was a better pitch than I expected from him. That's the one pitch that probably exceeded all of our expectations; the depth to it and the power in which he threw it.

But I think the best thing is that I think Joe is understanding who he is as a pitcher more. His four-seamer has become more prominent, breaking ball more consistent, and I think because of that, that simplified approach, shorter stints, he's pitching with a lot more clarity and confidence.

Q. He'll come to spring training?
JOHN FARRELL: Yes.

Q. Any more WBC clarity since yesterday, guys playing?
JOHN FARRELL: No. No, there really isn't. I don't know, I don't have the date in front of me where they have got to indicate their acceptance of the interest.

Q. You have to sort of plan your spring training accordingly a little bit, don't you?
JOHN FARRELL: Because that list can change, as well. If something crops up in spring training, you might have to adjust.

One, we can't stand in their way of their interests, their decision, if they choose to go. We do have a pretty high number of guys that could be going, though. I would imagine Chris Sale is on that list of interest, so that probably puts the number right around 12 on the initial list. Now, that includes some non-roster guys, as well.

Q. I don't know if this was asked, I walked up late, but have you gotten any report or heard anything about the way Christian has been swinging the bat down in Puerto Rico?
JOHN FARRELL: Just get a line score daily, but haven't gotten any depth further into that.

Q. He's there primarily to get some extra at-bats?
JOHN FARRELL: Extra at-bats, and he's also catching. So where a year ago, it was strictly DH, and he's behind the plate now, too.