Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning and discussed his team’s clubhouse atmosphere, Mike Carp‘s role on the team, and how the team’s medical staff handled Clay Buchholz‘s injury.
The Red Sox, who hold a 9½-game lead over the Rays in the AL East, have had been boosted all season by a strong clubhouse atmosphere, which Cherington said is due to all of the Boston players focusing on one goal: a chance at a World Series title.
“I think it has a little something to do with the guys, certainly, something to do with doing well, and obviously a lot of the moves that John [Farrell] has made have worked, that helps. And then something to do with the time of year we’re in,” Cherington said. “I think it’s just, right now, everyone in that clubhouse understands that this is about something bigger than themselves. It’s about team. There are other times where it would be appropriate to sort of think more about personal goals and priorities, but right now, that’s just not the time. And everyone knows that.”
One player who has fit into this team-first mentality has been Carp, who has hit .314 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs despite being limited to a backup role, playing in only 74 games.
“I think anybody that is a good hitter and a good player in the big leagues wants to play. These are competitive guys and they want to be in there. But I think on this team, Mike walked into this team in spring training … and I think he recognized the role that he was going to be in on this particular team and he’s accepted it and to his credit, has done really, really well,” Cherington said. “It doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to play more. I’m sure, down the road, that’s something that he wants to do. But right now he’s just been ideal in that role.”
Cherington also talked about closer Koji Uehara and how important he’s been to the team this season, especially with injuries to relievers such as Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan.
“Thankfully, we were able to sign Koji,” Cherington said. “There were some people in the organization that were really really pushing to sign Koji, even though at the time it didn’t seem like maybe it was the biggest need on the team. We just felt like he was such a good fit and had such a sort of unique skill that it made sense.”
With Buchholz’s impressive return to the starting rotation. Cherginton was asked whether the pitcher and the Boston medical staff deserve an apology from those who criticized his long stint on the disabled list.
“I don’t know about apologize. To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to the criticism,” Cherington said. “I think internally, we knew that this was being handled the right way. Clay was making steady progress, but in his case, there was an injury, the good news was that it wasn’t a serious issue that would affect him long term, but there was an injury and it was a type of injury that if not handled properly, could turn into something bigger.
“This is a guy we have under contract for a long time. He’s obviously a really talented guy, we need him to be good for a long time. So we were trying to handle it in the best way, short and long term.”
On if Koji Uehara has secured the role as closer for next season: “Based on what he’s doing now — and we have him under contract for next year — based on what he’s doing now, I think it would be easy to expect that. But we’re not thinking at all about next year. There’s obviously things that we’ll get to this offseason and issues to address. … We’re just focused on right now.”
On if contract negotiations have started with Jon Lester: “No, right now, obviously I think there’s a time for that. That falls into the category of more of a personal thing for a player. I think right now it’s just so much about what the team’s doing and what the group’s doing together. We just feel like those issues are better left for after we’re done playing, which hopefully is several weeks from now. There will be time to have those conversations in the offseason. But Lester has been terrific. He’s pitching like he has for most of his career, like one of the better left-handed starters in the game.”
On if any more Pawtucket players will be called up next week when the Triple-A postseason ends: “I would say it’s likely there would be a small handful of additions. Obviously since we haven’t had those conversations with players yet, I’m not going to say who, but I would say it’s probably a small handful. You get to this point of the year — and we’ve already done this with the additions that we’ve made — but you really want to make sure that — obviously we’ve got a good thing going in the clubhouse right now and a good mix, and we want to make sure that if we’re going to continue to add to that mix that there’s a reason for it, whether it’s a specific role or a value in having a guy around as far as their development or whatever. You don’t want to add just to add. So, there will be good players who are not added for the rest of September, but it doesn’t mean they won’t be good big leaguers for a long time. Wes just got to be careful about protecting what’s going in there right now.”
On manager John Farrell’s decision on Wednesday to put Carp in to pinch hit in the 10th inning for Jonny Gomes: “It does take guts, but I also think that it was the right decision. Jonny Gomes is more than capable at having a good at-bat because … he’s a huge part of the team and he’s won games for us. But as a manager, you have to make decisions that you feel put the team in the absolute best position to have success. … I think Jonny Gomes knows that he’s going to be called upon at a very similar situation at some point and it will be him in there as per John’s decision and we’ll be counting on him.”
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