Juan Nieves Hits Ground Running as Red Sox Pitching Coach, Plans to Hold Staff Accountable

White Sox at Orioles August 9,  2011BOSTON — Juan Nieves has been glued to his phone.

Since getting hired as the new Red Sox pitching coach Nov. 8, Nieves has piled up the minutes on his plan, dialing everyone from Franklin Morales in Venezuela to Alfredo Aceves in Mexico and Daniel Bard in Mississippi.

Nieves has managed to touch base with every single pitcher on Boston’s roster. Now, after the initial introductions, the 47-year-old plans to accrue his frequent-flyer miles in January and visit the pitchers in person.

“Hopefully, as many as possible within the time frame,” Nieves said on Friday of the visits. “It’s hard because, for them, it’d be a one-day situation in which I’d leave home in the morning and come back, but I don’t want to take a lot of time because I know this is very precious time for them, too — holidays, family and the tradition.

“I’d be more than happy to even do the long toss with them. I’ll play catch with them. I can still throw a little BP and do long toss. I’ll be more than happy to play along if they need a partner, or I’d enjoy going to wherever they are and see them throw on the side and exchange thoughts. Get acquainted, that’s all.”

One of the first pitchers listed on Nieves’ travel agenda is Bard. Nieves recently reached out to the 27-year-old on the phone, but the conversation lasted just 15 minutes since Bard was hunting at the time.

After watching video on Bard, Nieves is eager to inherit the reliever as a reclamation project. He is coordinating a visit to Mississippi, where he’ll get a gauge on Bard’s development.

“I didn’t see him early [last season],” Nieves said. “I think by the time [the White Sox] played [the Red Sox], he wasn’t around. So I never really had a chance to really see him, only through video. But we want to get back to the 2011 Bard, and that’s a guy that is in there.”

Nieves is the fifth Red Sox pitching coach since 2010. He’s the latest in a revolving door at the position, following John Farrell, Curt Young, Bob McClure and Randy Niemann.

This job, however, marks his first as a major league pitching coach. He was the White Sox’ bullpen coach for the past five seasons. While this is newfound territory, Nieves intends to bring some of the same philosophies from Chicago to Boston.

“You don’t have to have five No. 1 guys or five No. 5 guys in a rotation to be successful,” Nieves said. “I think you expect your 1-2-3 [starters] to be consistent, hopefully your 4 and 5 eventually. It’s nice when they eventually pick and choose during the course of the season they throw like a 1 and 2 maybe for a month and a half. You never know.

“I think accountability for the starting five is very important. It was proven in Chicago, and we’re going to stress that here. You see it with teams like Tampa Bay. When  you have a strong five, it’s nice to keep your bullpen nice and healthy, and not only healthy but fresh.”

Thumbnail via Flickr/Keith Allison

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