Carl Willis signs on as Red Sox pitching coach

Carl Willis (right) served as Seattle’s pitching coach from 2010-13.
Carl Willis (right) served as Seattle’s pitching coach from 2010-13.Leon Halip/Getty Images/File 2011/Getty

TORONTO — The Red Sox have hired Carl Willis to be their new pitching coach. He will join the team on Saturday afternoon.

The Red Sox on Friday obtained permission from the Cleveland Indians to negotiate with Willis, the pitching coach at Triple A Columbus. An agreement was reached quickly.

“They’re to announce it for me [Saturday],” Willis told the Columbus Dispatch. “The deal was I didn’t want to leave until the Indians could arrange for someone to get here.”

Willis is scheduled to arrive here after the Sox play the Blue Jays on Saturday.

“We play Sunday and fly to Oakland. So that will be a good five-hour trip that I can get brought up to speed on everything that’s going on there,” he said.


Willis, 54, was a pitching coach in the Indians system from 1997-2009. Red Sox manager John Farrell was that organization’s director of player development from 2001-06 and worked closely with Willis.

Willis shifted to the Seattle Mariners from 2010-13. He was a successful coach with the Mariners but was fired with a year left in his contract after manager Eric Wedge was let go. He was a special assistant with the Indians in 2014 before being assigned to the Columbus staff.

Willis has worked with several prominent pitchers, including CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Felix Hernandez. All three won the Cy Young Award under his direction.

The Sox were seeking a replacement for Juan Nieves, who was fired on Thursday. The Sox, 7-0 losers on Friday night, have a 4.95 earned run average, the second worst in the majors. Their starters had a 5.56 ERA.

Farrell met with the pitchers as a group on Thursday to discuss the situation.

“We all know we need to be better and we know what we need to do,” Clay Buchholz said. “It’s unfortunate it fell on Juan. He’s one of the nicest humans I’ve ever been around in baseball. But this organization is about winning.”


Willis pitched parts of nine seasons in the majors from 1984-95, appearing in 267 games. His best season was with the Twins in 1991. On a team that won the World Series, Willis was 8-3 with a 2.63 ERA in 40 relief appearances then pitched in seven postseason games.

Farrell gave a specific definition of what he wants in the next pitching coach.

“One that’s always going to be available for a given player. One that’s going to have a consistent message that the players buy into, that they trust,” he said. “A clear-cut plan for each individual pitcher. Not only what they’re working on today but what is needed for them to improve and develop as individuals.”

Farrell said no “single event” led to Nieves getting fired.

Progress for Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez, who has not played since Monday because of a sprained left shoulder, could avoid the disabled list.

“At this point, yes,” Farrell said.

Ramirez took some swings off a tee in the batting cage Friday and is scheduled to take batting practice on the field on Saturday.

“I’m feeling better,” Ramirez said. “Getting closer.”

Ortiz serves suspension

Major League Baseball rejected David Ortiz’s appeal of a one-game suspension and he sat out the game, leaving the park after batting practice.

Ortiz was suspended for “making contact” with umpire John Tumpane after he was ejected from a game April 19.


Ortiz didn’t play against the Orioles April 26, a scheduled day off. He could have dropped the appeal and served the suspension that day but elected to make his case.

“If I knew I had no chance, I wouldn’t have done it,” Ortiz said. “Things were going back and forth I wanted to make clear.”

Once Ortiz appealed, the Sox lost the ability to essentially schedule his suspension. With Ortiz and Ramirez out on Friday, the Sox had a makeshift lineup and produced only two hits.

“There was a strong desire on David’s part to state his case. He didn’t feel like the suspension was warranted,” Farrell said. “That’s the right of every player, to go through the process.”

One-day cameo

The Sox called up 25-year-old first baseman Travis Shaw from Triple A Pawtucket. He was 0 for 2 with a walk then optioned back to the minors.

“Exciting time,” Shaw said before the game. “This is what you work for.”

Shaw’s father, Jeff, pitched 12 seasons in the majors from 1990-2001 and was a teammate of Farrell with the Indians from 1990-92.

“Managing the son of a teammate? Means you’re getting old,” Farrell said.

Farrell said the Sox would add another reliever before Saturday’s game. Matt Barnes is the likely choice. The righthander has a 4.15 ERA in five games for Pawtucket and appeared in one game for the Red Sox, pitching two scoreless innings of relief against Baltimore April 25.

The Sox have waffled on Barnes’s role all season. He arrived in spring training as a starter but was used in relief eight times. The Sox considered Barnes for the Opening Day roster as a reliever before sending him to the minors to start.


Barnes was then called up to work in relief, sent back to start, and then switched back to the bullpen again.

To make room for Shaw on the roster the Red Sox designated righthanded reliever Edward Mujica for assignment. Mujica had a 4.61 ERA in 11 games this year.

The Sox signed Mujica to a two-year, $9.5 million deal and still owe him approximately $3.8 million. He had a 4.03 ERA in two seasons with the Sox and was generally used in low-leverage situations.

Victorino starts back up

Shane Victorino started a rehab assignment with Double A Portland. He started in right field, played six innings, and was 0 for 3. He struck out, grounded into a force, and flied to left.

Victorino is scheduled to play again for Portland on Saturday then join the Sox here on Sunday. He could be activated from the disabled list on Monday in Oakland. Victorino has been on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring since April 23.

Prospect pleads guilty

In 2011, the Red Sox paid an $800,000 signing bonus to Cody Kukuk, a high school lefthander from Kansas. On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery, robbery and aggravated burglary related to his involvement in a Nov. 8, 2014, incident near the University of Kansas. According to testimony in the case, Kukuk beat a man with a table leg while committing a robbery. Kukuk will be sentenced on June 9 and faces up to 43 years in prison. Kukuk, who had a 4.38 ERA over three seasons, is on the restricted list. As of Friday the Sox had not released him . . . Double A catcher Mike Brenly, 28, retired and joined the major league staff as a bullpen catcher. He is the son of former major league manager Bob Brenly.


Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe. Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.