The Red Sox are entering Spring Training with high expectations. Manager John Farrell says he’s OK with that.
In an interview with Kirk & Callahan Tuesday, Farrell said the team is anxious to get back to work after a bitter ending to last season. Though the Red Sox won 93 games and retook the division, they were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Indians.
“[Last season] left a pretty crappy taste in all of our mouths, as abruptly as it finished,” Farrell said. “Winning the division is certainly something that we’re all proud of. And with this particular team, I think a building block. Because of the taste it left in our mouths, we come back here and we’re hungry. The pace and the energy has been shown here in Spring Training. We are looking forward to the work ahead.”
For the first time in 15 years, the Red Sox will start a season without David Ortiz. While his production in the lineup will be missed, Farrell said the void his absence leaves in the locker room will be have to be replaced as well.
“Let’s say we go through a stretch where things aren’t clicking and there’s a little bit of a rallying point in our clubhouse –– David was always a guy who stood up and spoke,” he said. “I think a number of players would look to him because of his experience and the number of ups and downs he’s gone through or we’ve gone through in this city. And he was a voice of reason and a sounding board for a lot of guys. And more than anything, I think he exuded a lot of confidence for others to feed off of.”
One of the keys to the Red Sox’s success in a post-Ortiz world will be the performance of Pablo Sandoval. After only playing in three games last season, he showed up to camp in better shape this year. While that’s encouraging, Farrell said Sandoval will have to earn back his everyday spot in the lineup.
“It’s his job to reclaim,” he said. “The one thing about our team is, we like the versatility and depth that’s in this roster. If that’s Brock Holt at third base platooning with Josh Rutledge, then that’s an alternative. But the most important thing is, Panda is well understanding of what’s ahead of him. He’s done a great job of getting himself back in the conditioning he needs. That’s the first step. So the next step is going between the lines and reclaiming [it].”
David Price’s first season in Boston wasn’t a failure –– he led the league in innings pitched and struck out 228 batters –– but he fell short of delivering on his Cy Young expectations. His disastrous start against the Indians in the playoffs, in which he allowed five runs in 3.1 innings, rekindled questions about his ability to pitch in October as well (his career postseason record as a starter is 0-8). Farrell said Price understands his shortcomings, and is in a position to improve.
“Last year, I thought he had a good year for us,” he said. “I wouldn’t say a great year, obviously. But when you look at 230 innings pitched, 17 wins, a career high in strikeouts, there’s a lot of things that have gone well for him. And yet, since the expectations are very lofty at times, it might have fallen short on some people’s part. But I would expect with David, knowing him now after a year, knowing the environment we’re all working in and pitching in, he’s going to be a little more comfortable than a year ago.”
Chris Sale will join Price and Cy Young winner Rick Porcello at the top of the rotation this season, giving the Red Sox perhaps the best 1-2-3 punch in the league. Though Sale just arrived in camp, Farrell said he can already see why the lefty is such a dominating force on the mound.
“You look at the stuff, the age that he is, the stuff that he has, the consistent performer he is,” he said. “Watching him here for the first time –– standing behind the cage and watching –– it’s a very uncomfortable at-bat, and you’ve got a fierce competitor inside the person. So you combine it with the physical abilities, he’s going to be an extremely successful pitcher here.”
With Sale, Price and Porcello at the top of the rotation, Farrell may not have to go to his bullpen too often. But when he does, his moves will be heavily scrutinized. At several points last season, the Red Sox skipper came under fire for his befuddling in-game moves. In response to that criticism, Farrell said he’s always looking to improve.
“I think if there’s anybody that’s committed to their craft, regardless of their walk of life, if they don’t self-reflect, self-review, maybe they’re just looking to pass time and move on through. So yeah, I look at that,” he said. “I’ll say this: in response to your criticism, I don’t know that you have all of the information available for those decisions that are made during the game. I understand there’s going to be two sides, and the great thing about our game is that it’s debatable.”