Red Sox

Farrell's hiring gets Lester's stamp of approval

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Farrell's hiring gets Lester's stamp of approval

Jon Lester is happy with the selection of former pitching coach John Farrell as his new manager, the man who Lester says "knows me better than anyone in baseball."

And while Lester knows Farrell only as his pitching coach, he predicts he'll take the same meticulous approach as manager -- and be every bit as successful.

"I know how well-prepared he was as a pitching coach," said Lester by phone Monday night, two days after Farrell was hired and a day before he was set to be formally introduced, "and for him to have a whole team to be in charge of, I can only imagine what he's going to do. We'll have meetings about this thing or that thing -- how to play this guy, how to pitch to this guy. He'll just be prepared, every night, to put us in the best position to win."

Asked if he felt the Red Sox sometimes lacked the proper preparation under former manager Bobby Valentine, Lester equivocated some.

"I don't know what was missing," he said, looking back on the team's 93-loss season. "I know (for the pitching staff), having two pitching coaches was tough. And there were other things, distractions, that made it difficult. It finally came to a point where guys kind of stopped paying attention (to the distractions) and just kept their heads down and played."

But Lester, who had his worst season with a 9-14 record and a career-worst 4.82 ERA, stopped short of predicting that reuniting with Farrell will guarantee a return to form.

"It helps (having Farrell back)," acknowledged Lester. "It helps you feel comfortable. But as far figuring things out, I need to do that by myself."

In addition to approving of whom the Red Sox hired, he's also thrilled at how quickly the hiring took place.

"I think the biggest thing is getting it done so soon," said Lester. "That kind of puts a statement down, that we want to move forward. That was the most exciting thing for me. Now we start building and look forward to next year.

"Last year, (when Valentine was hired on Dec. 1), we had a lot of question marks and things going with the coaching staff getting in place late. It kind of put a damper on the off-season. Now, we can move on and look to get off to a good start in spring training."

Lester and Farrell, of course, are hardly strangers. Farrell served as Red Sox pitching coach during Lester's first four full seasons in the big leagues and the lefthander enjoyed his best seasons with Farrell as his coach.

"I think the biggest thing with me and John," said Lester, "was that I always knew, if I needed anything as far as getting questions answered or guidance, I could go to John and get a no-BS answer. I knew I was getting the truth and that he had my best interest. That's hard to find sometimes in the game. Sometimes, people give you (the answer) that you want to hear.

"We had some times when we butted heads, when he told me that I was wrong. But we worked it out. That's what I respect and like about him. And that's what I'm expecting (now that Farrell is the manager). It's one of those traits that will carry on, regardless of his (new) position."

Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard all learned to pitch in the big leagues under Farrell. Now that Farrell is returning to the Red Sox as a manager, Lester knows the roles -- and relationship -- will change somewhat.

"The hard thing will be, if I'm struggling, I'll want to go to John (for help)," said Lester. "And I'll have to develop a relationship with whoever we bring in as pitching coach. But the respect level (for Farrell) won't change."

Nor does Lester think Farrell himself will change, or change his approach.

"Now, he just has to manage 25 personalities," he said.

When Farrell addresses the full squad of players at the start of spring training, it won't be hard to command the room.

"He'll have everyone's attention right away," said Lester. "As far as respect, with the guys he doesn't know, that has to be earned. That goes for anybody. You have to have that personal one-on-one respect, and as a manager, that takes time. John walks in that door as a baseball person you respect. The first words that come out will be a good stepping stone."

The hiring of Farrell didn't catch anybody on the Red Sox by surprise, according to Lester. Players, sensing that Bobby Valentine wouldn't return for 2013, knew that Farrell was first on the Red Sox' list of candidates.

"It was kind of expected," said Lester. "We've been sort of hearing about this for 2 12 months. Now, finally, it's done and we can move forward."

Lester left little doubt that the Sox can move on from last season's troubles.

"All the guys in the clubhouse had great chemistry," he said. "We got along and wanted to play for each other. Hopefully, we can build off that. I'm excited. I'm looking forward to (2013). But for me, the biggest thing is getting as far away from last year as quickly as I can."

ALCS: Judge, Sabathia help Yankees beat Astros, 8-1

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ALCS: Judge, Sabathia help Yankees beat Astros, 8-1

NEW YORK - Aaron Judge hit a three-run homer and a made pair of sparkling catches, leading CC Sabathia and the Yankees over the Houston Astros 8-1 Monday night and cutting New York's deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series.

Sabathia allowed three hits over six scoreless innings for his first postseason win in five years. Todd Frazier hit a go-ahead, three-run homer for the Yankees, who stopped a seven-game ALCS losing streak dating to Sabathia's victory over Texas in 2010.

Sonny Gray starts Game 4 Wednesday on 11 days' rest, likely against Brad Peacock or Lance McCullers Jr.

Back in the Bronx after a pair of 2-1 losses in Houston, the Yankees led 8-0 after four innings. Houston scored on a bases-loaded walk in the ninth before postseason star Jose Altuve grounded into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded.

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Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

BOSTON — Brad Ausmus was the second person to interview to replace John Farrell as Red Sox manager, baseball sources confirmed Monday afternoon. The Sox are expected to interview Ron Gardenhire, the Diamondbacks' bench coach, as well.

But the net might not be cast too wide. More and more, it sounds like the Sox already know whom they want.

Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who met with Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in New York on Sunday, appears the frontrunner to take the reins next year. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal has reported that to be the case multiple times, and for some inside the Sox organization, that's a growing feeling as well.

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The criteria the Sox value most isn't hard to guess: a strong connection with players, an ability to incorporate data and analytics; and someone who can handle the market.

"I knew Alex for a couple of years before getting a chance to work with him and had tried to recruit him to work a few years ago and he had other options," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday in New York, before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. "To watch him develop relationships with the players, he's all about baseball. He's all about the competition and small advantages within the game, one of the brightest baseball intellects that I've been around. And to see him pass some of that on and transition from player to TV personality to coach, he's had a ton of impact.

"He challenges people. He challenges me. He's someone who's all about winning. And I think to watch our players respond to him, he's got a lot of respect in that clubhouse because of the work he puts in and the attention to detail that he brings. That's why he's the hottest managerial candidate on the planet and deservedly so."

Cora joined the Astros before this season.

Ausmus, whom Dombrowski hired in Detroit ahead of the 2014 season, grew up in Connecticut and went to Dartmouth. The 48-year-old spent 18 seasons as a big-league catcher, the last in 2010. He was working for the Padres before Dombrowski gave him his first shot at managing the Tigers. 

Ausmus went 314-332 in four years managing the Tigers, a more veteran team than might have been ideal for him as a first-time manager.

Ausmus pulled out of the running to interview with the Mets, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag while Cora was expected to interview with the Mets on Monday or Tuesday, per the New York Post's Mike Puma.

What could change from here? One baseball source indicated a second interview with Cora was expected. Asked if he plans a second round of interviews generally, Dombrowski did not say.

"We have started the interview process," Dombrowski wrote via email. "I do not have any specific time frames at this point. Will wait and evaluate as we go through the process."

The Boston Herald's Chad Jennings first reported Ausmus' interview.

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