Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield checked in with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday afternoon from spring training. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Butterfield said the new rules regarding home-plate collisions are unfair to baserunners.
“I’m really disappointed in the decision,” Butterfield said. “I think it puts the health of our baserunners in some jeopardy. I understand what they were trying to do to protect the catchers, with all the head injuries. But I was hoping before they finalized things that it would be equal treatment.
“Most of the catchers in the league are big and they have all that equipment on. And they’re not allowed to block the plate until they receive the ball. But now it becomes a matter of those big bodies with that gear on dropping down on ankles and feet and hands and wrists. I just don’t like the scenario right now. I guess I’ve got to wait to see how it plays out, but right now I’m not real happy with the decision.”
The Red Sox are an aggressive team on the basepaths, but Butterfield said he’ll have to reconsider his approach.
“How are we going to attack it? Is it going to change our approach with a contact play? Is it going to change our approach — certainly with my job, is it going to make my job a little bit more difficult? Or am I going to be a little bit more cautious in sending in runners? We’ll see,” he said. “Maybe I’m jumping the gun a little bit. I should probably just sit back and wait ’til there’s just a little bit more clarity.”
Butterfield said he has little sympathy for catchers, especially considering, in his mind, they create much of the contact.
“It’s real interesting, just because I think it just opens up a lot of things that might make it difficult physically for runners. Before, the catchers had it in the back of their mind they had a chance to get ear-holed. The catchers are the ones that started this whole thing. And I don’t care if catchers are listening — they started the whole thing, because they started blocking the plate a long time ago. And a lot of it was without the ball, with all that gear. So the runners had to say, ‘Well, I don’t want to get stoned here at the plate, so I’m going to have to go in there with some physicality.’ That’s what happened.
“Now that the catchers don’t have that fear of a guy coming in and banging them, then I think that the way that they’ve always been taught and their mindset is to be aggressive. It’s just not a great situation for our baserunners.”
Much has been made about how the Red Sox are ready to “turn the page” on last year’s World Series championship and focus on 2014. Butterfield says that’s made the job of the Red Sox coaching staff easier.
“I think that thing that we’ve noticed is we don’t have to say anything because [that] core of veteran guys have come in here with a little bit of an edge,” he said. “It’s obvious just by the way they’re working already — and we’re giving them tedious drills. It’s obvious by their approach and the words coming out of their mouths and the way they’re doing things that they’ve already put everything behind them, and they want to prove to everybody that we’re for real. And you can tell. You can tell just by everything’s that is being said and the type of work they’re putting in that our core veterans are carrying the torch correctly. So John [Farrell] really hasn’t had to say much.”
Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.
On coaching the team’s young players: “I’m having a blast. I think the thing that makes it the most fun is that these guys are real eager. And they’re chasing me down. I love it when players young and old are chasing me down in the clubhouse and saying, ‘Let’s go to work.’ That’s a player that’s hungry. That’s a championship-type attitude that you love going out there and working with them. Instead of us chasing guys down saying, ‘Hey, quit hiding from me, let’s go get better.’ These guys are getting after it.”
On Xander Bogaerts: “He’s got great body control, he’s a great athlete. The main thing that we’ve been concentrating on is his feet. I think with all young shortstops it just becomes a matter of time before they know where to put those feet down. He’s getting there. He’s still not there completely, and he’d be the first one to tell you that. But extremely athletic. And when he does it right with his feet, you see the explosion, the body control, and a guy that’s going to be able to be creative, gets the ball in the air quickly and with some arm strength. He’s going to be a guy that we’re really looking forward to seeing, and I can’t wait to see some reps here in spring training.”
On Will Middlebrooks: “I think that he is very workmanlike. He’s getting down into a lower position. This is another guy that’s extremely athletic, but he’s a big body. He’s 6-foot-4. And basically the third base position is a position when you’re a bigger body you’re protecting from your waist down. There’s a lot of balls hit so firm underneath you that you’ve got to be able to play in a wide stance, a wide position. And in order to do that, your setup has to be lower, your hands have to be lower. When we hit firm fungos at him, we noticed that as we look up, he’s already down there. So that means his setup is good, he’s not raising up when the ball’s hit. So he’s a step ahead of the game right now as far as getting in the right position and making his first moves count.”
On new Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski: “I’m sure that there’s going to be a lot of things that A.J. will voice his opinion on. I’m enjoying him already.”