- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- Less than 24 hours after the Boston Red Sox announced pitching coach Bob McClure was relieved of his duties, manager Bobby Valentine and members of McClure's staff responded to the move.
Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz has been the club’s best starter this season, posting an 11-3 record with a 4.19 ERA in 21 starts. He’ll make his 22nd start against the Angels’ Jared Weaver (15-3, 2.74 ERA) on Wednesday.
“It’s definitely weird for me because him and I had a good relationship, as far as of talking pitching and everything,” Buchholz said of McClure. “For all the struggles we’ve had as a team, I think that was more of a business decision than anything. They were trying to make a change and see if something can spark us.
"I liked him and I’ll still talk to him during the offseason. He was good for me and there were a lot of times during the season all the doubts of me as a pitcher, and all the thoughts mentally weren’t right, but we were able to talk about it and get through it.”
While general manager Ben Cherington said Monday that the decision to fire McClure was solely performance based (the Sox's team ERA of 4.31 is 11th in the American League), it was no secret that McClure and Valentine had a bit of a rocky relationship.
Valentine admitted Tuesday afternoon that it took him and McClure a bit of time to get to know each other and felt that gap had been closed, but the manager also understood a change needed to be made.
“Bob’s been in the game a long time and he’s a real good baseball guy,” Valentine said. “He’s a very good person, a very good guy. Obviously, coming into a new situation, there were adjustments that he and I were making as the year when on and I thought we were making them as the year went on. At this time, with six weeks to go, we thought maybe a little different voice in the clubhouse would make a little difference.”
Randy Niemann, who had been the club’s assistant pitching coach, will serve as pitching coach for the remainder of the season.
“He just has the common sense approach to things,” Valentine said of Niemann. “He’s worked with all the guys on rehab this year. He’s been totally in charge of that, so I think that they understand that he understands the throwing motion. He was in the bullpen for a couple of weeks when Gary [Tuck] wasn’t here, so the relievers got to know him a little during game situations. He was in the dugout for a couple of weeks when Bob wasn’t here. What [Niemann] brings is what is needed, a nice stabilizing force.”
"Actually, it's been a very tough day," Niemann said after the Red Sox lost, 5-3, to the Angels. "It's a tough time when somebody that was a good friend of ours, that I have to take over for him, which I'm happy to do. Mainly today I just met with all the guys and told them that we're going to go forward, we're going to work hard, we're going to do some things a little different with each and every one of them individually, but mainly I'm going to be here for them. I'm going to work my tail off to make them better, and hopefully we can turn this thing around down the stretch and have everybody doing what they are supposed to be doing."
Buchholz doesn’t believe that having two voices -- McClure's and Niemann's -- has been a distraction.
“Bob’s been involved in everything since he’s been here, he was a hands-on guy,” Buchholz said. “The same thing with Nemo because at the beginning of the season he was in the bullpen and ended up being here, but he knows the game and a pitching coach, for us, is more guidance and a reference point than anything because it’s not like we’re going to learn something new every day we come out here and throw bullpens. They’re the guys who keep you on an even keel and if the communication’s right, that’s what makes a good pitching coach.
“You’ve got to take it for what it’s worth,” Buchholz said. “It’s a business thing and I don’t think there’s any ill feelings toward Mac. It was just something they felt they needed to make a change, and we already have a guy who is going to step in and knows the game too. Hopefully it’ll spark something for us and we’ll try to get on a roll here.”