Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington checked in with Dennis & Callahan live from Fort Myers, Florida on Thursday morning to talk all things Red Sox and also to discuss the recent MLB pace of play changes. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
A major topic of discussion in the early days of spring training has been the recent pace of play changes in an effort to speed up the game. Cherington feels it is going to be a process, as is almost anything when it comes to implementing changes.
“I think as with anything when there is change it’s a process — and we have spring training to work through that,” said Cherington. “There’s a lot of smart people who have looked at this issue and feel strongly that pace of play is a critical issue for the game, for the greater good of the game. We all have a stake in that. Now it’s a question of how to improve that, how to execute it on the new policy so that it actually works and everyone gets comfortable. That’s a process. We have to use spring training to communicate, to educate, to allow players to feel what it feels like and frankly, our staff has that built into spring training. Since we’re very early in spring training, some of that communication hasn’t happened yet.”
Part of the process is a pitch clock in minor league games. The general manager feels pitchers will end up liking it after adjusting to it, as it will help them establish a good pace.
“It’s a matter of practicing it — this is something we will do at minor league camp — you start throwing your bullpens with a clock so you can get used to it,” Cherington said. “Once you get used to doing that, they’ve left enough time to get the ball and deliver a pitch. It’s a matter of getting in the habit of doing it. I think a lot of pitchers will find that once they get into that habit they will actually like it because it keeps them on a good pace.”
Cherington made an interesting comparison when it comes to Cuban athletes (like Yoan Moncada, who he couldn’t comment directly on as the signing isn’t official) compared to American athletes — the best Cuban athletes are playing baseball, as where in America the best American athletes are playing football.
“I think the thing about the Cuban player market, which is different than just about any that we look at, is baseball in Cuba seems to be capturing a type of athlete that baseball is not capturing in any other place,” said Cherington. “You can say [Yasiel] Puig just looks different, that’s because he is different. If he was growing up in Louisiana he would probably be playing in the SEC. If you’re growing up in Cuba you’re playing baseball, you’re not getting funneled into football programs.
“Some of the players that are coming out, they look different because they are different and if they have been training that long and training their skills, it’s pretty exciting what they can do on the field. We think there are guys, Moncada included, not to speak officially on him, that are capable of doing a lot of different stuff on the field just because they are are different type of athlete.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Red Sox news, check out weei.com/redsox.
On John Farrell declaring Shane Victorino starting right fielder if healthy: “I feel the same way. I think John said the right thing. Given what we’ve all seen Shane Victorino do, when he’s healthy, he ought to be the right fielder if he’s that player. That is how we see it. He’s more proven and we know the impact he makes in right field when he’s feeling good and right now he’s feeling good. He’s more proven than a number of other players out there.”
On concerns with 39-year-old Koji Uehara: “Not really. Look, anything can happen, that doesn’t mean anything he’s done the last two years, or for most of the last two years is automatically going to keep happening. But, after we had a chance to look at it, we were with him at the end of the season, we felt good about the physical part of things. We felt like what had happened in late August and early September was a clear result of something that was going on that was going to be resolved and we could manage. We know this guy. He’s incredibly accountable, diligent, he takes care of himself. A pro’s pro. There wasn’t that big of a concern and we were able to put it together and that was an important first step in our offseason.”
On if he’s concerned with TV/radio ratings: “In a way it is my business because I work for my bosses and we’re all in this together. We want to win games. We believe winning games will drive [ratings]. We also know that despite the real ups and downs of the last three years, if you look at the last 15 years, it’s been a successful run. The Red Sox have been very fortunate. Our fans are amazing. They keep coming out. There is still amazing interest in the team. We can’t take that for granted We have to continue to hold on to that. Most of it is with winning games, but if there are another things that come with it too.”
Are weight clauses in contracts against MLB rules (Pablo Sandoval): “I don’t know that they are against the rules. It’s not something we focused on at all. What we talked about with Pablo and again this spring, it’s not a number of pounds. Putting himself in a position to be out there at third base and be able to do the things he needs to do defensively to stay on the field as much as possible — how do we accomplish that? Let us help you accomplish that. Let our training staff, and conditioning staff, let all those people help you accomplish that.”
On free agent pitchers James Shields and Max Scherzer: “Never made formal offers. We had conversations with both. They’re all good pitchers so it never got to a point — when you make an offer you sort of have to feel like there is a legitimate chance for it to gain traction and through the conversations we had we never felt that way.”
On Red Sox’ offense: “The deeper group of offense talent we have the the better. Again, there is still going to be young players amongst that group. We hope and expect that the group will be deeper and give John [Farrell] more options. Exactly what the lineup looks like on April 6, or whenever that is, will be determined, but hopefully we have better options.”