Commentary

Red Sox back in comfort zone

Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz welcome return of John Farrell as manager

Updated: October 23, 2012, 4:38 PM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Hiring John Farrell as the new manager of the Boston Red Sox is general manager Ben Cherington's best attempt at quickly changing the culture, attitude and passion of the players.

It didn't take long for Farrell to start reaching out to his new players as he made phone calls and sent text messages on Sunday, the day the team announced the hire was official.

Pedroia He has that instant respect when he walks into the room because it's leadership and it's going to be nice.

-- Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia was at the airport on his way home from a family vacation when he received Farrell's call.

"He's excited," Pedroia told ESPNBoston.com Sunday night. "I'm excited. We're all excited. The way last year was, we didn't play well and after we made that trade we didn't play good baseball at all and we lost a lot of ballgames and took some beatings. I think guys are ready for a fresh start and to come into camp ready to go and turn this whole thing around."

Pedroia remembers early in the 2008 season, after a solid first month of the season, he began to struggle. He was sitting in the dugout at Fenway Park early one afternoon when Farrell came over, sat next to him and started to give him some advice.

"I went into a funk for about three weeks and I couldn't get any hits. John was out there early and he could tell I was pressing," Pedroia recalled. "He looked at me and said, 'Hey, man, you're all right. Let's go.' Just his presence and him saying that, for me, was like, 'OK, I better get going.' I'll never forget that.

"He has that instant respect when he walks into the room because it's leadership and it's going to be nice."

After the Red Sox fired Bobby Valentine the day after the dismal 2012 season ended, it was evident the club wanted Farrell and that Cherington would try to pull it off. With Cherington finally able to do that, the Red Sox players were happy with the decision.

"I was talking to a lot of guys last night and today and everyone is excited," Pedroia said. "John has meant a lot to our pitchers and their careers because John helped them out. He was always with the position players talking baseball and you have a sense of comfort with him and you know he's always going to have your back.

"John's a great guy. Even when we played the Blue Jays, you viewed him as one of your guys because of what we went through together from '07 to 2010. We went through so much with our coaching staff and your teammates and I think we're all excited about it."

As much as the entire Red Sox organization wants to forget about the 2012 season, there's suddenly a renewed sense of hope with Farrell back in the mix.

"This last year was tough, man," Pedroia said. "That was the first season I've ever lost and had been a part of something like that in my life. I learned a lot and I'm still in that kind of recovering-from-it phase now in the offseason.

"But I'm glad Ben, our front office and our ownership got this done early and put a manager in place. They know we have a lot of work to do to get back to where we want to be and that's to compete for a championship every year.

"Usually when we go into other cities, it's like everyone wants to come see the Boston Red Sox. It was a fun feeling. This year it seemed like we had less and less, so we want to get back to that point when we go into a city, they know the Boston Red Sox are here and they're ready to play good baseball and win a lot of ballgames."

Red Sox elder statesman David Ortiz appears to be on the verge of re-signing with Boston and the face of the franchise definitely wants to be around now that Farrell is back in town.

"To be honest with you, there is something about John that [Red Sox management] can see because they've been chasing John for the last couple of years," Ortiz said. "I love John. John is my main man, even when he was the pitching coach. But I don't know if it's fair for him to walk into this situation that we are in right now. Hopefully everything goes well and he can change things around.

"He's up for the challenge and what he's going to bring to the table and hopefully everything goes great. I know things didn't go the way he expected in Toronto and hopefully it works out for him here."

Farrell is an intimidating presence in the clubhouse when things don't run smoothly and efficiently. During his tenure as pitching coach in Boston, there were times when he made that presence felt to the pitchers, and that helped them succeed.

"When he was dealing with the pitchers, he kept them lined up," Ortiz said. "What was it? I don't know, but we're about to find out if we can go back to that because we need that."

Under Valentine there was a major disconnect between the manager and the players, as well as between the manager and members of his coaching staff. The dysfunction was bad on many levels. With Farrell in place, it seems the environment already has changed.

"We needed something different," Ortiz said. "I think you're going to notice a difference. We need somebody to increase the way things are around here and John's the guy. I'm excited."

Current Arizona Diamondbacks infielder John McDonald is considered one of the most well-respected veterans in the game. Before he was traded to Arizona in 2011, McDonald spent a total of seven seasons in Toronto and played his last 65 games in a Blue Jays uniform under Farrell.

The players and fans in Boston only know Farrell as a pitching coach, so McDonald was asked how he thought Farrell would fare as the manager in Boston.

"It's a tough question because you never know," McDonald said. "The players help define the manager sometimes in how well we play. He has a real calm demeanor and his demeanor never really seems to change, which is good from a player's standpoint.

"You know he's going to have your back and you want to play for John. He lets the players play and he always expected a lot, in terms of preparation. He and his staff always do the things to help players be successful. He's a good guy to play for and I enjoyed my time playing for him."

Because of Farrell's mediocre record in Toronto and his longing to manage the Red Sox, McDonald said he's not surprised the deal was made between the AL East rivals.

"Why would anybody be [surprised]?" McDonald said. "He did a good job as their pitching coach and the players seemed to respond to him really well. There's a comfort level because he's been there and he knows the guys, especially when you have the kind of success he had when he was there and winning a World Series."

Farrell was criticized this past season when veteran infielder Omar Vizquel said the young players on the team were not held accountable for their mistakes and blamed the coaching staff for that.

McDonald's experience with Farrell was completely different.

"I'm sure he gained a ton of experience in Toronto because it was his first time managing," McDonald said. "Every first-time manager you ever see, you want him to go through ups and downs, and it was amazing what that team [in 2011] was able to accomplish with a new skipper in town. He was able to fit in and mesh everything together.

"I like a lot about John and I had no problems. If I had a question, you'd walk in and ask your question. John would give good answers, and as players, you have to be prepared for something you might not want to hear."

Farrell brings instant credibility back to the Red Sox's clubhouse. This past season there weren't many players who agreed with Valentine and his philosophies. Now, with Farrell in charge, it would be difficult to find one Red Sox player who isn't pumped about their new manager.

"Believe it," one Red Sox player said.

"There are a lot of positives," McDonald said of Farrell's ability to succeed in Boston.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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