ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — What the manager thinks about his team and the future of his team is important. John Farrell touched on the first half of the season and what he expects from his team after the All-Star break.
Farrell definitely has major input on decisions that might be made on future acquisitions by Dave Dombrowski and certainly he has input on things he doesn’t want changed. What stood out in Farrell’s evaluations is his answer when I asked him if there was one surprise performer in the first half of the season.
Farrell prefaced his response by saying that he doesn’t want to slight anyone who contributed to a first-half first-place finish, but his answer was telling and perhaps revealing of how he views things.
“When you look at the way we’ve stabilized the game when Deven Marrero came along and stabilized third base, we were going through a period of time where there was a lot of uncertainty and it affected a lot of games. You’re talking about a guy who was fighting his way to earn a spot as a reserve on the major league team. He steps in and has had a major impact on the defensive side of things. It’s enabled our pitching to be far more efficient. It’s had far more reaching effects then just his place in the lineup or what his batting average might be. The defensive side of his game has been a major contributor to where we are today,” Farrell said.
So you read those words and what do you think? You think that Farrell will give up a little offense to have A-plus defense. Teams have done this since the beginning of time — a weak-hitting player whose defense is so compelling that you keep him in the lineup. The old Orioles did this with shortstop Mark Belanger and centerfielder Paul Blair. Certainly, this is a different era where American League teams in particular need everyone to hit. But also in this age of defensive metrics, Marrero has obviously stood out for Farrell.
So does that mean Farrell would recommend to Dombrowski not to fix what he feels isn’t broken? We’ll see if this strong praise for Marrero translates into him keeping the third base job for the foreseable future even with Pablo Sandoval due to come off his rehab assignment on July 16.
Is this current Red Sox roster good enough to win the division?
“Yes, I think it is and that’s going to require to continue to perform the way we’ve performed. And whatever additions to the roster come about, I have no idea. We’ve proven our worth at this point in the season and I have reason to believe we’re going to improve even more,” Farrell said.
Concerning what input he has in letting Dombrowski know what he needs, he said, “We’ve had daily conversation where we stand today, what makes sense, what could improve us if it makes sense to acquire, so that’s a living and breathing dialogue that goes on daily.”
Farrell spoke about smoothing out the uneven performance of the offense, reducing the numbers of games where the Red Sox offense show no signs of life. The majority of fingers in Red Sox Nation point at Hanley Ramirez.
“I would hope so,” Farrell responded to questioning about whether he feels Ramirez can have the kind of second half he did last season. “While he’s had stretches of games when he’s been extremely productive, and that’s what I’ve been referrirng to — trying to even out those performances. He’s a key figure in the middle of our lineup and when he’s impacted the baseball we’re a much stronger offensive team as a whole.”
Farrell thinks Mitch Moreland, always known as a platoon player, hasn’t shown any effects of playing too much.
“No I’m not [concerned]. We found ways to spell him against lefthanded starters. He’s done a very good job and like all of our guys, there’s going to be ebbs and flows to the season and he’s done a fantastic job for us,” Farrell said.
While praising Marrero’s defense, Farrell was glowing in his praise of the outfield defense.
“I don’t know the number of games [they’ve saved], I just know when a ball goes in the air and it stays in the ballpark we have a pretty good chance to catch it. We have three guys capable of playing center field. Their range is outstanding. I’ve said many times that not only is their range outstanding, they have the ability to throw the baseball. They have strong, accurate arms and they work at it and they take pride in the defense they play whether it’s a postgame dance or they look at themselves as a tight knit group and they play like that. The communication is very good. They cover for each other especially at Fenway where the caroms are tough to play. It’s a highly efficient group,” Farrell said.
He feels he found the right catching rotation with Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon which has helped the pitchers.
“More than anything we’ve found a balance to the workload to keep them fresh as possible and as productive as possible. They’ve developed a good rapport with the guys on the mound. I think it’s been clear as to who handles who as far as the starting assignment go. They’ve done a very good job. The offensive production is pretty even. We have two guys who handle pitchers and run a game the way they do and they have the ability to cut down base runners,” Farrell said.
Farrell looks forward to the return of Brock Holt, who could be back as soon as July 20th. He’ll see time at third and short in Pawtucket until after the All-Star break.
Farrell said nobody is pumping their chest or getting cocky about being in first. Right after the break, the Red Sox have four games in three days against the Yankees which should be the first “important” series of the season.
“We’ve made up quite a bit of ground over the last three weeks, but nobody is overlooking anyone or overestimating their place today,’’ Farrell said. “More importantly we have to continue to work and stay focused on the task at hand.”
With 73 games remaining after Sunday, the Red Sox, 25-14 at home, have 42 games remaining at home.
“I hope it eliminates those 4 and 5 a.m arrivals. Our guys have done a good job not letting it creep into their mind-set. Anytime we play in front of our crowd, advantage Red Sox,” Farrell said.