Red Sox ‘not where we want to be,’ Ben Cherington says
OAKLAND, Calif. — The e-mails, the Twitter posts have been excoriating Ben Cherington.
They call for his firing, cite his poor roster management. Every general manager has to take it. But in Boston you take it more. Memories are short. One year and 31 regular-season games after a World Series championship, some Red Sox fans are seeing red.
"We're judged by the results, and 31 games in, we're not where we want to be, but it's 31 games," Cherington said. "A lot of season [left] to play good baseball and I'm confident we will. I don't remember ever saying that we don't want good pitching or need good pitching to win games.
"The question is, how to get it and how to create that. I believe we have a lot of the solutions here already and will continue to find any way to get better."
The Phillies are willing to make a deal any time. The Red Sox have resisted. Cherington said the majority of teams aren't quite in trade mode yet. That will develop in the next few weeks, but in the meantime pitching remains the biggest issue for Boston.
"We knew we needed good pitching entering the year to win games and we still know that. I believe we'll pitch better," Cherington said.
When the Sox lost out on Jon Lester, they revamped the rotation with Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, and Justin Masterson, and not Cole Hamels via trade or James Shields in free agency.
The feeling on Cherington's end seemed to be, let's start with this five-man rotation and see where it goes before we invest millions in an ace pitcher. The Yankees had the same philosophy.
"We're trying to create some stability around that group. We lost two catchers in spring training and one early this season. That's a change that affects the pitching to some degree. We obviously made a change with the pitching coach so we want to see this group have a chance to perform with some stability around it," Cherington said.
He wants new pitching coach Carl Willis to evaluate the staff.
Cherington thinks Blake Swihart has done a good job defensively, but dodged a question of whether he might be shopping for a veteran backstop.
"You're asking a young catcher who was kind of ticketed to go to Triple A this year to come up and catch major league games. He's a very tough kid who is going to have a really long major league career," Cherington said.
Overall, "We haven't clicked as a team. I think we will. We have too many good players here not to have the offense click as a group. There have been a couple chunks of time where [manager] John [Farrell] hasn't had a full complement of players. This team was built on having deep lineups every night, so that's one thing we're trying to get to."
Concerning Allen Craig, the embattled outfielder he obtained in the John Lackey deal along with Joe Kelly, Cherington acknowledged the team has no answers as to what went wrong.
"We know he's a real accountable guy, a good teammate who cares. He wants to do well. Honestly, we can't put our finger on why it hasn't gone better," Cherington explained.
"He's obviously got a track record. He's not an old guy. Not playing every day is a challenge. But he's not the only player who has to face that challenge so I'm not sure I can put it all on that. Part of this [sending him to Pawtucket] is giving him an opportunity to get on a roll. Hopefully that puts him in a better position to help us. Tough decision and a tough conversation but I think he feels he needs to play every day to get on that roll and that's the way we can create that."
And what of the $72.5 million man, Rusney Castillo? Does it feel strange that this multimillionaire is in the minors?
"We never looked at it like that," Cherington said. "We have a payroll and we have to win games with that payroll. Nothing has changed on the way we view him. He had a shoulder injury and he's coming back from that. He's right at the end of his rehab program. He's close to being a normal player again. We'll let him get more at-bats.
"This guy is a talented player who will get his opportunity at some point. We don't know when yet, but we're fully confident he'll help us win games at some point."
So forget this notion that Cherington is going to get fired. He does have ownership's backing.
"We talk a lot," said Cherington. "They [the owners] care about the results. I care about the results. Always trying to find solutions. In any form of leadership there has to be a healthy balance of support and urgency. That's what we feel. That's the way you want to feel. That's the combination you want."
The team's start has been disappointing. Red Sox fans are not happy, and neither is Cherington. He's probably more upset than anyone because it's on him. It's his roster and one he believed in and still does.
Cherington hasn't been afraid to make major moves in his tenure, starting with the Los Angeles Dodgers firesale.
He'll have to do something at some point.
There are enough enticing names on the pitching front that will eventually move him to act, even if he has to give up prospects he'd rather keep.
This is Boston. You're not allowed to fail for very long. You're not allowed to be patient with players. You're not allowed to go through rough times.
Cherington knows the drill all too well.