Winter Meetings interview with John Farrell
Q: Has the euphoria worn off yet?
JOHN FARRELL: I think it definitely has. We're deep into free agency. We're deep into getting a better look at what our roster is going to be. It's going to be an important couple of months. The euphoria has definitely worn off.
Q: What do you think of all the moves last week and how your team looks after that?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, we addressed areas that not only were current needs, there are still that remain. But I think bringing Mike back certainly keeps a mainstay in the middle of our lineup together. I thought Edward Mujica as an addition into the back of our bullpen is a guy with good experience, good addition, and very good strike thrower.
With all things considered on the catching side of it, I thought with some young guys coming, some talented young guys, A.J.'s selection and him joining us is a really good fit for multiple reasons. More than anything, it's his overall desire to win, which I think will really fit in.
JOHN FARRELL: Well, we're still looking to add to the left side of the field. How that takes shape remains to be seen. But the one thing that really served us well last year was the depth of our pitching. You can make the argument we've got one too many starters right now on December 9th. But if we were to start the way we are with a left side infielder, we're in a good place.
Q: What about the loss of Jacoby? How can you calculate that?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, he's a darn good player. When he was playing at his full capacity, which, again, I think everyone has to take into account. He played with a broken foot. He played with a beat up left thumb, and I think he proved to a lot of people, including himself, that he's very capable and certainly a dynamic player. Disruptive on the base paths.
I mentioned this last week, how we replace him is more about what our team's capability of scoring runs are rather than one individual player coming in to compare directly against Jacoby. I know that's a natural comparison, but we're going to miss Jacoby. He's a very good player.
Q: Can you talk about the impact that Napoli had on this ballclub and his improved play at first base?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, the defensive side of things, he became a very good first baseman, and that is to his credit. The work he did with Brian Butterfield, the amount of time he spent started at spring training and beyond. I think with each passing week at that position, he gained a lot of confidence. As far as the offensive side, he embodies everything we want to see him do. His pitch count, his power is clear. And to bring it back is the main thing. To bring him back and have him back in the fold gives us that sense of stability when we were looking at four guys potentially leaving.
Q: When you look at the team now, who do you see could be a leadoff hitter for you?
JOHN FARRELL: Probably looking at a couple of guys that quickly come to mind. Obviously, it's Vick, and it's Daniel Nava, both guys hit in the leadoff spot sparingly this past year. But I think the most important thing is we're not going to replace some 50 something stolen bases by Jacoby. The biggest thing would be who is our best on base percentage guys to keep them or keep that individual in front of Beady, and David, and Nap, those are the two guys that quickly come to mind right now.
Q: Would you rule out Pedroia as part of that equation? You'd rather have him in two or three?
JOHN FARRELL: I think the way we finish the year with Petey in the two hole, and David in the three hole, if we were to start today, we'd probably be looking at one of the other two guys mentioned in the leadoff spot, with Petey in the two hole, and David in the three hole.
Q: How confident are you in Jackie Bradley taking over at centerfield?
JOHN FARRELL: Defensively, no question. He showed us that each time he was on the field. And I think through this past year and the transition he went through and the challenges he faced and the way he faced Major League pitching, swung the bat, I think, with a little more productivity late in the season in September. And if that's the way we go, you know, we're more than willing to have him in centerfield. He's a good player.
Q: How much does it help having the experience of seeing him throughout this season going into next year?
JOHN FARRELL: I think for any first time player, first year player, those that first year, you can't avoid it, you have to go through it. Maybe the challenges or the growing pains that might differ from player to player but with Jackie and potentially Xander going through similar situations, that is part them continuing to becoming established at the big league level.
Q: How much will Xander be tossed in and being under fire help him with his adjustment period?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, it's invaluable. In his case it's learn a new position or get familiar with third base at the most visible time of the year speaks to his calmness and presence on the field. I don't know that you can necessarily count postseason games two for one for regular season, but he responded very well. And, again, Brian Butterfield does a great job.
Q: What was your reaction when you heard Robinson Cano was heading to Seattle?
JOHN FARRELL: That we'll only face him seven or ten times instead of 19. You know what, free agency does some different things, and he's a great player. You remember as a pitching coach, he's a guy that keeps you up at night trying to find ways to attack him. But I'm glad he's out of the East.
Q: Where would you personally like to see Xander play? Third or short?
JOHN FARRELL: Oh, the way he played third base when he first came up compared to when he finished the season, he made tremendous strides there. So I think we're completely comfortable with him playing either position. Again, I think our focus has always been and will be what is the strongest and deepest team we can make or create? And we've got a ways to go here in the winter before that's determined.
Q: How happy are you with how deep your bullpen is given the addition of Mujica to a pretty good crew coming back?
JOHN FARRELL: A lot of strike throwers. Andrew Miller is returning and will be as big of an addition as we can probably make throughout the off season. That is not to sleight anyone, that's just to say how good he is all year. We're balanced. You're looking at potentially three lefties, possibly four righties. So we've got depth. We've got strikeout capability, and a lot of strike throwing.
Q: Where's Miller in his rehab?
JOHN FARRELL: It's on track. In saying that, everything is projected that he'll be ready for spring training.
Q: You mentioned having an extra starter. Would you like that taken care of before spring training? Or do you want to go into spring training with all six of those guys?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, we're certainly comfortable going six guys. I know that there are teams and Dennis fielded a number of calls on our starters. And rightfully so. They're talented, they've pitched well, they've long track records. So whether or not we show up in Ft. Myers with six or seven capable starters remains to be seen.
Q: Is that a problem going in with an unsettled roster? Is there a question of who the five guys are going to be?
JOHN FARRELL: I think let's say we have six returning guys and five plus that came over at the trading deadline, we'll be able to work through that. Again, we've got quite a ways to go before spring training.
Q: How comfortable are you that the problems that came up for Clay last year are behind you?
JOHN FARRELL: Based on the most recent report, very comfortable. No residual feeling of any kind of physical discomfort. He's initiated his normal off season strengthening program. So all of that has calmed down from last year. So his durability and just innings capability is a huge will be a huge benefit further going forward.
Q: I mean, before his injury, he was throwing as well as anybody in baseball?
JOHN FARRELL: I'd agree with you.
Q: What do you remember about the effort and time that Salty had to put in to kind of learn and master the pitching staff?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, one, he never shied away from any work that was needed. He cares about the guy on the mound. I think he embodies everything you're looking for in a catcher, and that is what do we do from a pitching catching standpoint versus anything offensively that he would contribute. He had a great year offensively for us. His priority has always been the guy on the mound. He worked hard at shortening up his transfer time, shortening up or becoming a little more efficient in his blocking. At the same time, he's working on two different swings. There is a lot on his plate. You know, to his credit he was able to see what his market was, and he did a great job for us.
Q: What kind of an edge is it that A.J. has spent all but one season in the American League, even though he doesn't know your guys, he knows the league and the hitters well.
JOHN FARRELL: Yeah, maybe it helps shorten down the learning curve on hitters that he's already seen. In the conversations I've had with him already, he's eager to get to know our guys. I don't think he's ever been reserved to the point of not talking to guys. So he's a very good fit for us.
Q: On the starting pitchers, you say you had six. But the guys that are the Triple A prospect guys, it seems like you have a decent wave right behind those guys. So would you say you're really eight or nine deep? Where do you see the guys behind the six?
JOHN FARRELL: I would hope that we could say we're eight or nine deep because a lot of years, on years where attrition can strike, you're going to need that kind of depth. The six that I mentioned, that doesn't even include Brandon Workman. With the three starts he made for us, he was very good. When you consider Webster, de la Rosa and then that next young wave coming, we're in a very good place as far as the health and the organization standpoint. We have good pitching and power arms.
Q: Talk about how much you like Shane in right field and the Gold Glove and how great a job he did out there. Given that, do you feel like it would be helpful to have another guy who can play center behind Jackie or does Shane's ability do that?
JOHN FARRELL: I think Shane covers us in shortstop. If we had to change up something on a given night before, we'd have to make a roster decision maybe on an injury. But I think all of us internally feel Shane was so good in right field, we'd want to maintain what he did this year, and that is Gold Glove defense.
Q: Will he go back to switch hitting?
JOHN FARRELL: Everything says he will. That was a conversation as the year unfolded and finished out. But Shane has a way of coming up with some things that kind of keep you smiling.
Q: I was going to say everything says, what does he say?
JOHN FARRELL: Right now that includes Shane.
Q: Would that be a factor in your leadoff decision whether he would indeed hit from both sides so you could maybe lead them in there regardless of who you're facing?
JOHN FARRELL: You know what, based on what we did last year and the fact he went solely right handed, we didn't take him out of the two hole. It was a matter of him getting on base frequently, and that is the number one criteria, the rate in which guys are getting on base.
Q: You talked at the end of the year about wanting to monitor Doubront's off season. How has that gone? Have you started with that process?
JOHN FARRELL: We have. We wanted to adjust the fact that his annual trip down to Venezuela would be adjusted to go down earlier than in years past. Just make sure that everything's pointing in the right direction once we get through the early part of January.
On the same token, Rueben de la Rosa will be in Ft. Myers come mid January as well. He's got another ten days in winter ball pitching down there right now.
But guys that we earmarked for maybe a little more structure, that's what's planned.
Q: So you're going to have Felix go to Ft. Myers, is that what you're saying?
JOHN FARRELL: As he's done in the past, he would come back to the States and he'd report to Ft. Myers. I don't have a date for which he would report.
Q: Was there anybody in Venezuela with him or did he have somebody assigned to him in terms of working with him?
JOHN FARRELL: No, not while he's in Venezuela.
Q: Can you just elaborate on how Koji excelled so much for you guys based on the fact that he wasn't closing for a while before he took that position?
JOHN FARRELL: He excelled because he didn't change his approach or his the fact of moving to the closer role didn't affect him in any negative way, either emotional or physical. If you look at his track record, it's been successful. The one thing that really stood out was his overall efficiency once he moved in the closer's role. We've marvelled at it so many times. I think he averaged about 11 pitches a minute once he moved to the closer's role. I think he was better able to prepare mentally, given the score, given what the inning was, to know that I've got the start of the ninth inning. Whereas a set up or middle guy, you kind of have to read the mind of the manager. For him it was clear cut when he was pitching, and I think that really sat well with him.
Q: You played 16 extra games. Will that affect what you do in spring training at all?
JOHN FARRELL: Juan and I have had conversations on looking at a couple of guys. Particularly whether it's Koji, Perez, Cecchini as three that we might look to alter their programs to get them in games maybe a little later than in the early part of the game scheduled camp. So I think we have to be mindful of the added appearances and increased number of innings thrown. I think we've got a pretty good handle on that right now.
Q: With the position players that wouldn't have too much of a
JOHN FARRELL: We're still looking to get 65 to 75 at bats for our regulars, and we'll be able to get ready for that.
Q: Are you expecting Pedroia to be ready to go at the start of spring training?
JOHN FARRELL: Yeah, everything is looking like it will. The surgery he had. I know he was getting his pin out here late this past week. I don't have the exact date. But my recent conversation was that was to be removed, and he feels good.
Q: So come the start of playing exhibition games he'd be ready to play?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, we'll see how things advance, but everything points to him being ready not only for spring training, but getting ample at bats.
Q: How do you think that impacted him that it literally happens in Game 1. Not only does he play a full season, but another month in the postseason, how do you think it most impacted or hampered him? Is it power?
JOHN FARRELL: He's probably going to be best to answer it or answer it best. But maybe we saw him turn on the ball a little bit more frequently later in the year, when either he was getting comfortable with what he was dealing with or felt he wasn't going to do further damage. That's probably where we saw it more particularly in the early months and midseason was his willingness to go the other way a little bit more regularly.
Q: It's been a while since the team's repeated. Have you looked at what's happened with other teams and researched anything to figure out, you know
JOHN FARRELL: We've got plenty of work to do on our own guys. I haven't jumped into the history book or what people have done in the past. But I do know this: Just talking with our players, things are still very fresh in their mind and we're eager to get started in a couple of months.
The one main difference this year would be that you don't have maybe that natural motivation that was built in with guys wanting to rewrite their story or redeem themselves in a way. We've got to monitor that we go about our building block process as we did in spring training this year, as we did last year.
Q: You had a pretty clear cut theme going into spring training last year. Does there need to be a theme or do you expect that still?
JOHN FARRELL: I don't think our focus should ever change. That is to make tonight's game the most important thing regardless of what's happened in the past. We've talked so many times about this team's ability to put yesterday behind them. I would hope and expect that last year would be put behind us as well as we start camp.
Q: It's been a while since the team has repeated. You talked about maybe not having that natural rewrite the story, guys that went through 2012 and September of 2011. Do you use that as sort of, hey, you can mark yourself as special by repeating? Will that be any sort of motivation in spring training?
JOHN FARRELL: Without taking anything for granted, I think we have a group that has a tremendous amount of personal pride, and that will be the driving force. That will be the bottom line. But what we can give reminders to along the way and the direction that we can provide, yeah.
Let me back up a second, because that is putting the end result first and foremost, which is what we did not do all year long. That was focusing on tonight. However the season turned out, it did. But to say that we have a chance to do something special, I think, flies in the face of what made us so consistent this past year.
Q: Do you expect Will Middlebrooks to play a significant role this coming season?
JOHN FARRELL: Yes, yes. This is a guy that's still got very good raw talent. He had some challenges this past year, but there is no reason to think that he can't regain some of the form which he came with into the Big Leagues in 2011. So, yeah, that is a talented guy. Collectively we've got to get back on track and be consistent.
Q: Was it more a mental thing or where the pitchers were outthinking him?
JOHN FARRELL: I don't know that you can just say that there's one specific thing. There were some fundamental adjustments that he went through when he went down to Pawtucket and came back and joined us in Kansas City. And hit accordingly with some of the adjustments he went through. So along with that comes confidence.
On the flip side, if things aren't going well, maybe there will be some confidence. That can be said for any player though.
Q: You mentioned about Koji and (indiscernible) earlier. Just curious have you seen other good Japanese pitchers such as Tanaka play before on the video?
JOHN FARRELL: Pitchers that are currently in Japan?
Q: Or Tanaka? Have you seen him?
JOHN FARRELL: I've seen video of him, yes.
Q: What are your thoughts on that?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, he's a very accomplished pitcher. Whether or not he becomes available through the posting season remains to be seen. But in Boston we've had very good success with guys that have originate order started their careers in Japan and come over. We've got two very good pitchers right now in both Taz and Koji.
Q: When Will went to spring training, he was getting over that injury and then hurt his back in spring training. How much can being healthy impact?
JOHN FARRELL: It could have a huge impact. What about when Clay came in with the back issue behind him. This game is hard enough to compete and perform at when you're dealing with a guy 60 feet away. When you're competing against your own body in addition to that, it compounds.
Will went through some physical challenges last year, went through some internal competition that, again, was challenging. So hopefully a full off season. I know he's working out every day at Fenway and getting prepared to come back in and do what he's capable of. So we're encouraged by it.
Q: If you had Jackie Xander and Will in your lineup, would you be comfortable going into opening day with that, the lineup with those three guys?
JOHN FARRELL: Playing at their capabilities, yes.
Q: I know Ryan Dempster gets paid starter's money, but his history has been that he's been able to come out of the bullpen. Is there a scenario where he could be an important member of your staff outside of being a starting pitcher?
JOHN FARRELL: It's probably going to be more dependent on what takes place over the coming months.
Q: If some other people rise up in spring training?
JOHN FARRELL: Yeah, again, I think we'll probably have to reserve that until we get to camp. There's always going to be something. Last year we went into spring training wondering how we were going to get all the relievers in the bullpen, and that kind of worked itself out. You never want to see injuries take place, but I think it's early to start to talk about changing roles and how they might flourish or not.
Q: Earlier Joe Maddon was talking about how this job has evolved and there is so much information now that you can be so close to your front office to share that. Can you talk about how it worked when you took this job, and how it worked in the last season?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, one, Kevin Gregg does an incredible job. Feeds me with all the tidbits. But the daily conversations with Ben, Mike Hazen, Brendan Howell and others, that's where because of the frequency of those, we're so up to date on everything that's going on either with our own roster at the Major League level or things that are going on at the upper levels of the Minor leagues. It's really the rapport that you build and have with others in the front office to be able to answer the questions that ultimately come up in settings like this. Can't say it's overloaded. It just becomes our life. It becomes our passion and our job, and you kind of relish it, actually.
Q: What's been maybe beyond talking to the president, been the most fun thing you've done since the end of the season?
JOHN FARRELL: You know what, this kind of goes right in line with has it sunk in yet? And yes, there are different experiences. They're rare ones, let's face it. Some of the things you just mentioned. But I don't think my day to day has changed one bit. So we kind of put that off to the side and work towards doing it again. I don't mean to be boring, but that's kind of the way it's unfolded.
Q: Have you gotten a chance to go on vacation or get some downtime?
JOHN FARRELL: Yeah, a little bit from time to time. I've been bouncing around a little bit.
Q: Probably not paying for a lot of drinks or meals in Boston right now?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, there are others that can take care of that.
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