Ben Cherington: ‘We just haven’t performed’
ATLANTA — General manager Ben Cherington said he had already planned to be at Turner Field and that his arrival in the middle of a road trip was not related to the Red Sox losing 10 games in a row.
With the amateur draft 11 days away and the development-driven Sox having two of the first 33 picks, that may be stretching the truth.
Either way, long losing streaks have a way of getting GMs on a plane.
"Hard on all of us," Cherington said Monday before the Red Sox broke the skid with an 8-6 victory over the Atlanta Braves. "Obviously hard for the guys in there in uniform; hard for the staff; hard for us. It's not what we're used to.
"I think what we need to do, the most important thing to do, is try to find a way to make each day productive. Keep the conversation productive, keep the conversation positive. Focus on the moment. Do our own jobs a little bit better. If we do that, things will get better."
Cherington met with manager John Farrell and the coaching staff before the game and spoke to some players individually.
He then addressed the idea of supplementing the roster to save a season that is slipping away.
Cherington said the Sox are deep enough into the season to understand what their limitations are and address them.
"There's two ways to do that," he said. "The first is to help the players that are here get better, and that effort goes on every day. We believe some of that will happen. And then at some point, if production's not there, you have to think about changes."
Significant trades are rare at this stage of the season, and Cherington said nothing is under consideration at the moment.
"Our focus right now mostly is trying to get the guys here to get better, perform better," he said. "Thinking about different ways to align our roster."
Cherington still has faith in the assessments he made before the season.
"What we believed this offseason, what we believed in spring training in terms of the potential of this team and the position we're in in terms of the people in the clubhouse, the depth of talent, etc., that hasn't changed," he said. "We just haven't performed. We have to find ways to perform better."
One seasonlong issue has been the lack of a leadoff hitter. The Red Sox have tried five players and entered Monday with a collective on-base percentage of .309.
When Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Yankees, the Red Sox never defined a plan to replace him atop the order.
"In a perfect world, sure, you go into every season with a lock-in leadoff hitter, a guy that's going to get on base at a high rate and create havoc on the bases," Cherington said. "That's in a perfect world. Given everything that was in front of us this winter, we felt like we could have a really good team by using one of the available options. Obviously that's been a little bit of a revolving door."
Cherington said there was no obvious alternative.
"Looking back on the offseason, we had reasons to believe we could figure it out from within, and we still do," he said.
Cherington also believes in the outfield talent, including struggling center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
"You have to go on track record and what you're seeing," the GM said. "There's a very strong track record. This guy has been a good offensive player wherever he's been. We are seeing things in his at-bats that show us that he's making progress.
"No one wants to perform more than he does, obviously. He knows that's got to happen at some point. We know this guy's going to be a good player in the major leagues for a long time."
The Red Sox have been using 21-year-old infield prospect Mookie Betts in center field at Double A Portland. Betts is hitting .363 with a .451 on-base percentage. He has 25 extra-base hits and 22 stolen bases in 48 games.
Betts started in center field for Portland Monday, his seventh game at that position. Cherington said Betts also would get work in right field and left field.
Cherington doesn't feel Betts is likely to make his major league debut this season. But executives are discussing a promotion to Triple A Pawtucket. The Red Sox did call up then-20-year-old Xander Bogaerts last summer.
Cherington spoke positively about another slumping outfielder, Grady Sizemore. He believes Sizemore is coming around physically after a two-year layoff because of injuries and can be productive.
Outside of the Minnesota Twins, the Red Sox have the least productive outfield in the American League.
Farrell was asked whether the team could compete with the outfielders on their roster.
"Until changes are made, this is who we have," he said.
Cherington, who kept his cool amidst the wreckage of the 2012 season, was measured in his comments throughout.
"Right now we have a lot of guys who are not performing to expectation," he said. "It's not a lack of effort, it's not a lack of caring. It just hasn't happened.
"The good news there is that could very well mean the good stuff is ahead of us. That's the way it works in a season.
"I don't think you can single out any one player or any one aspect of the team. We all have to find a way to get better. I don't think it's fair to single out any one aspect. We've got to get better collectively."