INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Another portion of Red Sox manager John Farrell's coaching staff came into focus Thursday, as general manager Ben Cherington announced that Gary Tuck will return as bullpen coach.
Tuck, 58, will enter his seventh season in that role for the Red Sox, serving under his third manager.
"Aside from his skill as a catching instructor and a smart baseball guy, he's got a lot of insight into our players from this year and nobody else on the staff was going to have that," Cherington said. "We thought that was important."
Tuck held an option for 2013 in his contract, but Cherington said the Sox negotiated a new deal to retain him. He did not disclose terms of the contract.
"I think John felt like having at least one person from the 2012 staff return was important," Cherington said of a coaching staff that has undergone a significant transformation since the end of the season.
The Red Sox officially hired their new pitching coach, Juan Nieves, earlier this week. But plenty of staff issues remain, with the club still in need of a hitting coach and first-base coach. Cherington said he will begin meeting with hitting coach candidates this weekend, and could introduce a new wrinkle into the interview process: asking candidates whom they might prefer as an assistant hitting coach.
Joining the growing trend of teams with assistant hitting or pitching coaches, the Sox may implement such a hierarchy under Farrell.
"They ought to complement each other, certainly," Cherington said of a potential coach and assistant. "There ought to be some philosophical alignment, but perhaps some different personality, background."
As far as player acquisitions, Cherington has made it clear at the General Managers Meetings that he is checking in on several free agents -- particularly outfielders -- to fill out his roster. Like most GMs, Cherington has spent his time at the Grand Hyatt Indian Wells touching base with agents and rival executives, gauging both the free-agent and trade markets.
Not surprisingly, at least one agent sees the open market as Boston's quickest route back to contention.
"It's a very difficult process, unless you're going to participate in free agency," said Scott Boras, whose list of free-agent clients includes outfielder Michael Bourn. "The great thing about them is that they are one of the Goliaths of the game, revenue-wise. It's really not a question of if they can; it's a question of choice. I don't think there's anyone in baseball that thinks that the Red Sox don't have the ability to compete in the free-agent market."