BOSTON — Time is the operative word and element for Red Sox bench coach Gary DiSarcina.
In time, probably at the Thanksgiving dinner table, he’ll look back on the day he managed in place of a suspended John Farrell — because managing the Boston Red Sox for a day is special to not only him as a Billerica native, but his family and his parents.
DiSarcina is well on his way to getting to know everyone on the team. But a few months into the season, he’s not there yet, and that’s normal.
DiSarcina, in his first year as the Sox bench coach replacing the beloved Torey Lovullo, chatted with Doug Fister for 25 minutes the other day. Fister, of course, just joined the team.
But during the rain delay Tuesday at Fenway Park, DiSarcina chatted with David Price for even longer.
“That’s what this game is about is relationship building. If you can’t do it in a genuine way, they know it,” DiSarcina said on the CSNNE Baseball Show podcast. “With David Price, he was down for a long time … [When guys on the DL] they’re in the weight room. They’re in the training room, they’re in the bullpen. So I haven’t had a lot of time to be around David to start that relationship and build that relationship. And so far, one of my highlights of this season other than managing, I sat for 45 minutes with David during the rain delay, just sat next to him and just talked to him.
“We talked about the games that were going on, and he knows every starting pitcher’s number. … You can’t show up and be best friend with 25 guys right away. You got to just build it. Some of the guys are tougher. Just their personalities are so different you know. Hanley [Ramirez’s] different than Brock Holt.”
Speaking of Ramirez, what does DiSarcina see from a player whose desire to play first base has been questioned? The bench coach knows what’s swirling around.
“You hear about it, but like I said, I grew up in this area and I understand a little bit — I worked for NESN for two years, so I understand what becomes a focal point, why it becomes a focal point,” DiSarcina said. “I see Hanley every day. He’s in the weight room. He’s in the training room. He’s getting work done. … When you see somebody continually, constantly trying to do what it takes to be on the field, you respect that.
“I’ve learned real quickly in this game as a staff member, never doubt somebody when they say they’re injured. I tore my rotator cuff and for two months I had no idea what was wrong with me. I just knew I was sore. And I had people saying, ‘Why isn’t he throwing the ball well? Why is he bouncing balls to first base?’ … Truth is, I was hurt.”
It took about a month, in DiSarcina’s estimation, to hit the in-game stride with Farrell. Spring training just can't simulate in-game emotions and scenarios.
“I really enjoy standing next to John and standing next to [pitching coach Carl Willis],” DiSarcina said. “Just talking the game and sitting… Sometimes I feel like I'm in somewhat of a classroom, learning things as we go. And also being asked and having your opinion matter.
“Early on, John would be thinking out loud. I'd say ‘OK, I'll get [a player] ready.’ And then I'd come back and he’d be like, ‘No I don’t — let’s try this,” DiSarcina continued. “Now I've learned, just let him talk. Because he’ll be thinking — he’s just thinking out loud. And then when he’s done thinking out loud, give your opinion if it’s asked. Don’t sit and there and force your opinion. But listen to him, and John’s really good at asking, ‘what do you think?’
“I think that part took a little bit of time to get used to, just that in-game seventh inning conversation. Because the pressure’s on. He’s got to make decisions quickly and until you’re in it, that’s why like I’m sure him and Torey were so in sync, because they had been doing it for so long. Three years, three, four years doing that, knowing each other’s personality, knowing how someone kind of thinks before they say it.”
The controversies that have arisen around the team — Farrell bashing is its own game for fans and media at times — have not surprised DiSarcina, aside from one FOX Sports story.
“We came back from the Oakland series, we lost three out of four and all of a sudden there was this brush fire about John getting fired because we were teetering on a .500 team and [Drew] Pomeranz and him got into it in the dugout,” DiSarcina said. “I was sitting right next to both of ‘em working the lineup card, and it wasn’t that big of a deal. But the thing is, cameras are in the dugout the whole game. That one kind of caught me a little bit off guard, because you know, we hadn’t been playing really poorly and the club still had good energy and they were positive.
“One thing gets caught on tape, and the next thing you know, it just kind of snowballed. You win six in a row and that stuff disappears. And that’s how this area is, man. When you win, a lot gets put under the rug. And other than that, it’s all been par for the course for me.”