Cherington vows Red Sox will return to winning ways
General manager meets with media Monday to discuss club's long losing streak
ATLANTA -- In the middle of what would eventually turn into a magical 2004 season for the Red Sox, then-general manager Theo Epstein flew to Atlanta when the team was at a midseason crisis point to take some of the media scrutiny away from his manager and players.
An accountable Ben Cherington did the same thing Monday, though he had planned to accompany the team in Atlanta all along.
Cherington spoke before Monday's game, as the Red Sox tried to snap out of a 10-game losing streak, the longest by the club in 20 years.
The fact that it has happened on the heels of a World Series championship season has only made it more stunning.
"It's hard for all of us, and obviously hard for the guys in there in uniform who are out on the field every day," said Cherington. "It's hard for the staff, hard for us. It's not what we're used to. I think the thing we need to do most importantly is to try to find a way to make each day productive, keep the conversation productive, keep the conversation positive, focus on the moment and all try to do our own jobs a little bit better, and if we do that, things will get better."
What can Cherington do better, aside from making a blockbuster trade?
"Part of it is having a conversation with everyone and being a part of making that productive, being a part of making that positive -- that daily conversation," said Cherington. "We're deep enough into the season certainly where we, even putting the losing streak aside, where we can see where the team's limitations are and see the areas which perhaps can get better.
"Again, there's two ways to do that. The first is to help the players that are here to get better, and that effort goes on every day and we believe some of that will happen and that will help itself. And then at some point, if production is not there, you have to think about changes.
"There's nothing to announce, there's nothing specific we're looking at, but that's up to me, and at this point in the year, we're deep enough into the season where, again, we know our limitations, we know we have to get better. We have to look at every avenue to get better."
Though the Sox entered the day eight games back in the American League East, Cherington was far from writing off the club.
"We know we still have the core of a winning team here and we're going to win," Cherington said. "But we've got to get there. We've got to focus on today and just try to start playing a little bit better first."
There are a lot of facets of the game to fix before the wins start coming consistently.
"I don't think we're excelling in any one area, but I do think we have players capable of excelling and some of that is going to happen naturally," said Cherington. "There are other things that maybe you can do at some point to try to make the whole thing a lot better. What we believed this offseason, what we believed in Spring Training, in terms of potential of this team, the position we're in with people in the clubhouse, the depth of the talent -- that hasn't changed. We just have to perform. We have to find ways to perform better, and that's going to come in a number of ways."
Aside from recent injuries to Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks -- all of whom are on the disabled list -- the Red Sox have also dealt with under-performance.
Jackie Bradley Jr. is playing superb defense in center field, but entered the game with a .197 average.
"We talked about it this morning as a staff," said Cherington. "Here's a guy, you have to go on track record and what you're seeing. There's a very strong track record there. This guy has been a good offensive player wherever he's ever been. We're seeing things in his at-bats that show us that he's making progress.
"No one wants to perform like he has. He knows that's got to happen at some point. He can help the team every day with his defense, as long as the arrow is pointing in the right direction, and we believe it is, then he's our center fielder, and we've got to support him and we know this guy's going to be a good player in the Majors for a long time. He's not the first guy to have a transition early in his career. It just so happens that because the team's not doing well now, there's inevitably going to be focus on that."
Grady Sizemore, a reclamation project after missing the last two seasons entirely, took a .220 average into Monday's game, though he belted a triple in the third inning and scored on a sacrifice fly by Bradley.
"Well, as I said last week, he's past the physical questions," Cherington said. "He gets treatment every day. It's no longer a question of whether he's able to go out there and play. Granted, he's been in left field more than center as opposed to early in the season; we see a guy who's moving around better defensively in my eyes. He's recognizing pitches. He's strong.
"We're looking at a guy who went a long time without seeing Major League pitching and is maybe in that phase where now he's just getting used to Major League pitching again. When he gets his pitch, we see him drive it and hit the ball hard. He cares. He's here every day early. This guy wants to be as good as anyone."
Despite the lack of production in the outfield, Cherington said the club will not rush highly touted prospect Mookie Betts to the outfield. Betts, who is at Double-A Portland, has played a lot of outfield of late after coming up as a second baseman.
"He's in Double-A, he's doing well, he's starting to be exposed to the outfield," Cherington said. "I don't think we're really at a point in the season to really consider that. I think we've got to focus on the guys here. We know the overall performance of the team has to improve. The outfield production is one aspect of that. But there's a lot of different aspects of it. We've got to look at everything. I would say that no, it's not a consideration right now. He's where he needs to be."
But, as the general manager is the first to acknowledge, the Red Sox are far from where they need to be.
"Yes, I do think the effort's there," Cherington said. "Dissecting a 10-game losing streak is not fun by any means. But since we have to do those kinds of things, it is a little bit atypical as losing streaks go in that we're in a lot of close games, a lot of one-run games. At least one two-run loss, a couple of three-run losses I think, so there's competing going on, there's effort. We're not doing well enough in any aspect of the game right now. We have to find ways to improve across the board."