Appearing with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning, the morning after the Red Sox moved over .500 for the first time this season, team president and CEO Larry Lucchino talked about the club's recent improvement, Bobby Valentine's coaching approach, and why the team elected not to sign Roy Oswalt.
Lucchino also extended an invitation to Dennis & Callahan's own Jon Meterparel to handle Fenway Park PA announcer duties Thursday and become a candidate to replace the late Carl Beane.
Boston, which has been struggling throughout the young season, is last in the AL East with a 25-24 record. But after beating Detroit on Tuesday night, the Red Sox are over .500 and only 3 1/2 games of first place.
"To finally get over .500 is something we should celebrate," he said. "I'm really pleased with the way the team is coming together."
Lucchino said the Red Sox might still encounter some difficulties as the season progresses, but the team's solidifying identity is a positive that will carry over.
"There will be some ebbs and flows during the remainder of this season, but the good thing is the team has kind of come together," Lucchino said. "I think there's an identity forming, some of the lesser-known players are making a real contribution keeping this team at around .500. That's where we want it to be until the cavalry comes over the horizon in the persons of [Jacoby] Ellsbury and Crawford and [Andrew] Bailey and ... Daisuke [Matsuzaka], of course."
Valentine has survived the struggles and the transition period thanks in part to a winning drive, Lucchino said. That allowed him to overcome being the scapegoat for the team's slow start.
"I thought he was a convenient symbol for people," Lucchino said of criticism of the new manager. "I didn't think it was certainly fair to focus on him. I thought that people who were upset had legitimate grievances with the performance of the club and the finish last year, and the manager was kind of a figurehead person or symbol that people could focus on.
"But I think he's done an exceptional job, with the series of injuries he's had to deal with, the restructuring of the bullpen he's had to do. And a number of the calls he's made have proven to be really insightful and very helpful to the club sustaining itself around a .500 record so far."
Added Lucchino: "It's undeniable that he plays every game to win. There's this commercial that NESN has: 'Every game matters. Every pitch matters. Every out matters.' He plays it like that. There's an intensity that I like. In the fifth inning he's pitching lefty, righty, lefty to get the matchup he wants. And I think that's the way to do it, particularly in this day and age when with the wild card system that we have, one game will make a difference, two games can make a difference. Last year one game made a difference in the final standings and that's been true for the last few years."
Following are more highlights from the interview.
On the team's decision to pass on Roy Oswalt: "It wasn't as though we were starting pitching short. We think that in a week or two we're going to have seven possibilities [with the return of Matsuzaka and Aaron Cook]. So, do you spend an extra six or seven million dollars to secure a guy when you've got that kind of pitching need and you may need that money come July 31st?"
On why the productive Daniel Nava should sit when Carl Crawford returns: "If [Nava] can sustain what he's doing, he's going to make some real money over the course of the year, but he's not yet a firmly established major league outfielder. But he's been an invaluable part of the first part of the season for the team. As I said, he's one of my favorite stories. But Crawford is somebody who has an established major league track record and we're eager to get him back in there and I think he's got something to prove. It appears that he feels more comfortable with his surroundings, his teammates. I know he's champing at the bit [and] just can't wait to get in there. And it's not that Daniel Nava doesn't play, it means that there will be some time-sharing I suppose among the outfielders given the number of injured outfielders we have."