Sometimes, the overriding message becomes stale. At that point, a change must be made.
The Red Sox shook things up Thursday by firing pitching coach Juan Nieves. General manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell both pointed to Boston’s overall pitching performance, particularly in the starting rotation, as the main reason for the move.
“Given the performance that we’ve had to date, we’ve been looking at all of those things,” Cherington said in a conference call, “and while we’re confident that we have many of the pieces in place to improve and that we will see improvement, John and I simply got to a point where we felt that in order to continue to push forward and make improvement, we needed to make a change and have a different voice in that particular position.”
The Red Sox hired Nieves, who had spent the previous 14 seasons as a coach in the Chicago White Sox organization, before their 2013 World Series campaign. He immediately gained the trust of Boston’s hurlers, overseeing a pitching staff that posted a 3.79 ERA, the lowest mark for the club since 2002.
The last season-plus has been a grind, however, and inconsistent pitching has been at the heart of the Red Sox’s struggles as a team. While Nieves maintained the respect of his peers, it became clear amid the continued woes that something needed to change. Thus, Nieves received the ax.
“I think what it comes down to is focusing on the rotation — maybe the most important (thing) — and that’s not to overlook any other person on the staff,” Farrell said. “But because the rotation pitches the bulk of the innings and the quality that’s required, stability that’s needed, whether or not that same connection was made with the current group to bring about the consistency of performance.
“There’s a number of things that go into this, but the ability to maintain the consistency or affect change when needed or adjustments that are required that’s typical with any pitcher, that wasn’t the same as we saw, as you referenced previously, two years ago.”
Farrell has a long history with Nieves, even hand-picking him as Boston’s new pitching coach upon being hired as the Red Sox’s skipper before the 2013 season. The relationship factor certainly crossed Farrell’s mind, though at the end of the day, baseball is a business and the Red Sox aren’t winning games.
“Extremely,” Farrell said of the decision being difficult. “It was said so directly last night to him because of what you just outlined. He’s a caring person, and any time that you have to make a change on someone that you hired, yeah, I take responsibility as well. And that is not felt or unnoticed in this situation.
“This wasn’t easy.”
The Red Sox haven’t hired a replacement for Nieves, but Cherington said the club is considering at least one internal and one external candidate.
Thumbnail photo via Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports Images