Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Curt Young is Red Sox pitching coach
By Joe McDonald
BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox announced Tuesday afternoon that Curt Young has been named pitching coach, replacing John Farrell, who was named manager of the Toronto Blue Jays last week.
Young, 50, has spent 23 years in the Oakland Athletics organization, including the last seven seasons as their major league pitching coach.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona explained that as the 2010 season was coming to a close in September, he figured Farrell would land a manager's job with another organization. Francona decided to do a little homework on his own, and looked at who would be a legitimate candidate -- both internal and external -- to replace Farrell.
Francona wanted to be prepared, and actually asked Farrell to do the same.
"We both came up with Curt as a No. 1 choice for the Boston Red Sox for a lot of different factors," admitted Francona.
When the regular season ended, Young stepped down from his position with the A's to pursue other options in the game, and the timing worked out perfectly for the Red Sox. General manager Theo Epstein interviewed Young extensively in Arizona, and Francona spoke with Young on the phone.
"Considering where we are, and being the Red Sox, it was not going to be an easy job to walk into, following John Farrell -- for a lot of reasons," explained Francona.
Internally, the Red Sox interviewed Mike Cather (major league advance scout) and Ralph Treuel (minor league pitching coordinator), and Francona said both were deserving of the position. But, looking at the big picture of experience and expectations, Young was at the top of the list.
"I'm looking forward to hearing things that are important to him, and having some back and forth, some fresh ideas," Francona said. "It's exciting. I've been fortunate enough to have some really good coaches, and this was an important hire. Losing John Farrell was a big deal. Getting Curt Young is a big deal, and we're really excited."
During his stint as pitching coach in Oakland, Young helped guide the Athletics to an American League best 4.03 ERA and held opponents to an AL low .257 batting average. Last season, A's pitchers led the AL in ERA (3.56) and shutouts (17).
Stepping into his new role, Young, 50, said he will bring suggestions to help the Red Sox pitchers get better, and his preparation will include getting to know each pitcher's routine before and after each outing.
"It's an honor," Young said. "You get into competition, and you definitely have respect for what [the Red Sox] do, the way they pitch and the way they play. To be able to be a part of that is real exciting."
It's not like Young will be starting from scratch. He inherits one of the best starting rotations in the game, and some of the best relievers, too. The challenge for Young will be to get to know the staff as best as possible prior to, and during, spring training.
Young has enjoyed success in the past with veteran pitchers, including Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson. Young also understands how to work with top-notch prospects like Dallas Braden and Trevor Cahill.
So learning a new staff with the likes of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon should be a seamless transition.
"[I'll be] learning [the process of] what they like to do and what they feel makes them successful, and I will try to pass along some things that I think will help them improve their game," Young said. "Everybody is always looking to get better, and any way I can help, I'll definitely be there for these guys."
Craig Breslow, who has pitched for both the Red Sox and A's, wrote in an e-mail, "The Red Sox are getting a great pitching coach."
The left-handed reliever worked under Young the last two seasons and was in the Boston organization in 2006 and 2007.
"I think Curt will be a perfect Red Sox pitching coach," Breslow wrote. "He has shown a remarkable ability to adapt, and I think that will serve him well. The A's staff, while talented, was young and unestablished. The Red Sox staff, also very talented, consists primarily of veteran guys. I think Curt will endear himself and will be able to reach each player individually."
Despite Farrell's new position as a rival AL East manager, Young said he would pursue Farrell's advice about Boston's staff.
"I think he'll be open to it," Young said. "You get in a position where he was for four years, dealing with those guys, I'm sure he's open to helping me and giving suggestions. I'm looking forward to talking to him."
Farrell is such a professional, it's not like he'll suggest to Young that Jon Lester should pitch right-handed.
"John actually offered the other night," Francona said. "He has his hands full this week, but he offered when things slow down that he would be happy to talk with Curt. I think it's good. John has moved on, and I know he's in our division, but you just don't stop caring about your pitching staff. These guys get awful close and now the transition will be to Curt, and he'll start his process of getting ties to these guys.
"This is an exciting time for us. It's an exciting time for John Farrell and now it's an exciting time for the Red Sox. We really caught a break here. We got a really good pitching coach and I'm excited for that. Our expectations are always high, and we got a really good guy for the job."
It's obvious Francona feels comfortable surrounding himself with people he trusts. He's had close relationships with his coaches over the years, including Farrell. Francona believes Young will be another one of those guys.
The two worked together briefly during the 2003 season in Oakland. Francona was a bench coach for the parent club, and Young was the organization's Triple-A pitching coach.
Since Young has spent the majority of his baseball career with the Oakland Athletics, he knows exactly what the Red Sox are all about.
"Being across the field from them, you know what type of pitchers they are, and the quality they bring to the game," Young said. "Now it's more of me getting to know them on a personal basis and getting to work with them."
Originally drafted by the A's in the fourth round of the 1981 draft, Young pitched parts of 11 seasons with Oakland, Kansas City and the New York Yankees. The left-hander compiled a 69-53 record and a 4.31 ERA in 251 appearances (162 starts). He was also a member of the A's starting rotation when they won three consecutives AL pennants from 1988-90.
The Red Sox believe Young is the best qualified to lead the club's staff, and that's why he's in Boston.
"You take pride in what you do and hopefully along the way, you're able to help someone get better," Young said.