Red Sox

New manager will shape Sox' -- and Dombrowski's -- future

New manager will shape Sox' -- and Dombrowski's -- future

BOSTON -- An executive who has yet to prove he knows what it takes to navigate Boston is now charged with hiring someone to face its media and fans every day, for a managerial job that Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski noted brings even more second-guessing than his own.

“It’s just like a general manager’s spot that they’re open for questions and debates and second-guessing, and even more so than a general manager,” Dombrowski said Wednesday. “Because they’re making moves when you can bunt, or hit and run, or steal.”

Both men better hope the fit is right. What the next manager of the Red Sox will prove is whether Dombrowski himself was really the right hire. Whether Dombrowski actually understands what it takes in this city, and whether he understands the psychology of the players he has asked ownership and fans alike to pay millions for.

THE FIRING OF JOHN FARRELL

In the search for John Farrell’s replacement, Dombrowksi noted the importance of media savvy. One figures that to mean Dombrowski will value how well his hire handles the Boston market on a whole: all its potential pitfalls, not just the media.

“Probably here, I think your ability to deal with the media probably weighs more than I would say in Detroit,” Dombrowski said. “That's probably an important part, maybe more so than it would have been in Detroit and some other markets.”

The problem is this: What evidence do we have that Dombrowski himself understands the market, the media, the fans?  The signing of $217 million David Price screams the opposite. The deterioration of Farrell’s time with the Sox is owed in part to the presence and antics of Price, after all. 

On Sept. 30, the day the Sox clinched the division, Dombrowski not only twice said Farrell had done a “great job,” but expressed some surprise at how much heat he receives. 

Surprising little town for newcomers, indeed.

“Managing is a tough job, period,” Dombrowski said during the champagne celebration. “I think it’s a tougher job here than maybe anywhere else. The scrutiny you receive. Being in the game as long as I’ve been in the game, I’m amazed somewhat the scrutiny aspect of it. And then when I look at the names behind his desk, the number of pictures and how few guys have stayed a long time. It just shows you it’s a tough job. He’s done a great job. He’s a tough guy.”

Well, that was some empty talk about a “great job” now wasn’t it?

Back in August, Dombrowski was asked about a pair of assertions: that he misjudged Boston himself, and that in turn his lack of understanding led to an unhappy pairing with Price. 

I don’t know I would get into that type of discussion from a public perspective,” Dombrowski said. “I think David Price is a tremendous pitcher. He’s had a difficult year when it comes to injuries. For him starting in spring training, sometimes injuries put you in a position where, just overall from a player perspective, it can knock you off kilter a little bit. He's a very intelligent individual. He’s hard working. So I think my personal feelings on that type of situation will be kept to myself.”

Dombrowski loves keeping things to himself, as Wednesday reinforced. A basic explanation of Farrell’s dismissal became privileged information.

That choice was poor. Continued speculation around Farrell will create more questions for his players and others in the organization, chatter that won’t help the organization or the players move on. Dombrowski had an opportunity to set a basic narrative, and could have done so delicately. He need not drag Farrell through the mud to provide a framework.

Perhaps that type of finesse eludes Dombrowski. He’s a power guy: big trades, big signings. Well, not big enough bats. 

Dombrowski acknowledged on Wednesday that the Sox' offensive shortcomings in 2017 were his own. What he did not dive into is the fact you can tie those shortcomings at the plate to his choice not to add significant offense while staying under the luxury tax threshold this year. To an inability to be creative with that luxury tax threshold — or at least, a lack of foresight to do so.

He needs the foresight now. He needs to be able to tell which way the wind is blowing in his locker room.

The next manager of the Red Sox could be someone who has pre-existing relationships with some players, like bench coach Alex Cora does with Dustin Pedroia. It could be someone cut from a more traditional cloth, like Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire.

The room itself needs change beyond the manager, likely, as well.

“I think we can get better as a team," Dombrowski said. “We'll see what happens in that regard. I'm not ready to get into all that. I think it's a situation where we went through a transition. We did win the division. You can always get better. We look to get better. I think young players' growth will make a difference in that regard. A new manager coming in will provide just an overall different dynamic, a change. And we'll see what happens in that regard.”

In August, Dombrowski was asked whether today’s managers are players’ managers rather than disciplinarians. If you’re looking for clues Gardenhire or someone like him might be the guy, read into this what you will.

"That’s a very difficult and lengthy answer, I think, because I think that the reality is that the game has changed,” Dombrowski said. “But you still have to be a disciplinarian . . . It depends on how you describe discipline. If players came out and nobody was on time and people didn’t stretch and you needed ‘em to stretch and they didn’t listen to their signs that you’re supposed to do, well, you can’t accept that type of behavior. But I was with Jim Leyland, jeez, 30 years ago and we often discussed it. He said the way he deals with players late in his career was a lot different than he did early in his career. 

“Because if he handled them the same way later in his career that he did earlier, he would have lost his players. Because, and, I think it’s the present generation. You just have to be aware of what motivates today’s young people. My son is different than -- what my parents did for me is a lot different than what my son did. It’s really, it's a lot different because when you talk about youngsters, and today is a lot different. You don’t see coaches at other levels just yelling and screaming at people. Or, when I played football coaches pounding in your helmet and hitting those things, you don’t see that anymore.”

“I still think discipline is important,” Dombrowski continued. “And I think also what’s very difficult is for people [from the outside] to evaluate situations. Which, there’s a lot of privacy that’s involved. People from outside are never going to know really what we do behind closed doors. So you don’t know how we approach topics and what topics we discuss and how we discuss them. But I can assure you, I don’t ever remember a topic that since I've been here, that we haven’t approached from a discipline perspective or a thought process on how we want to see things handled.”

Privacy is Dombrowski’s preferred route, then and now. It may be wise at times, but not universally. He needs to be more consistently nimble with his words, just as he need be better distinguishing in his personnel choices.

You don't get to hire a lot of managers before you yourself are fired.

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Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

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Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Don’t confuse the goal of a normal spring training with the likelihood one will follow.

Tyler Thornburg’s time with the Red Sox has been an ordeal. He’s optimistic he can have a regular spring training after undergoing surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in June, a surgery that included the removal of a rib which is now on display at his parents’ house. 

He said Saturday, in fact, there’s a “very good chance” of a normal spring. But there’s also a chance his build up to regular-season form runs unevenly. And that would be OK.

“I started throwing Oct. 2, that’s when they kind of gave me the go-ahead to go tossing,” Thornburg said Saturday at Winter Weekend. “So I’ve been building up slowly since then, just trying to make sure we don’t have any setbacks or things like that, and ramp it up at a good pace. I’m throwing at 120-140 feet, so it’s about the pace I’d normally be on, granted I’d know 100 percent before where I was [under normal circumstances]. So things could be a little different."

Consider a few other things Thornburg said Saturday at Foxwoods.

“I don’t really think any of us really know how quick I’m going to bounce back necessarily as far as how quickly the recovery’s going to go in spring training after an outing,” Thornburg said. “But hopefully I mean it’s fantastic, and we can kind of just keep going.”

A bit of natural uncertainty. He missed an entire season, and the reason he missed an entire season is had a lot going on medically. 

What appeared to be a shoulder injury was far from your usual, say, rotator cuff matter. His was a nerve issue.

“Two of the neck muscles were incredibly hypertrophied, like overgrown, and they just started squeezing on the brachial plexus, where all the nerves run down,” Thornburg said. “I’d be sitting there watching a game and just a nerve thing would hit me and I’d almost get knocked over by it. As well as the first rib was getting pulled up and my hand would just turn red some days if I was just standing there, cutting off the blood circulation. Then all the scar tissue and buildup along the nerves they had to go and dissect all that off there.”

So the injury wasn’t simple, and now, the recovery process is really a whole body matter. 

"There’s a lot off things your arm has to get used to between using different muscles, as well as my arm was kind of working through a scenario where it was trying to overcompensate for this and [trying] to relieve that,” Thornburg said. “So just worked a different way. Now your body has to remember how to actually properly work again. It’s a lot of neuromuscular stuff.”

Thornburg noted the possibility too he could be ready to go to start the season but not really ready to go back to back yet. Would the Sox then carry him on the big league roster, or continue to build him up elsewhere? 

Velocity won’t be there right away for Thornburg, he said: “But I mean that’s what spring training is for for most guys anyway.”

There’s a lot of optimism, but naturally, there’s a lot to be seen. 

“The rehab process, it's been a massive rollercoaster,” Thornburg said. “It really has. But I mean, I've been trying to take it week to week which has been a lot easier. There's the good days and bad days, just different kinds.”

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Coming off a phenomenal season, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel spent the offseason in Boston. Not to be closer to Fenway Park, but for proximity to something far more important: the city’s first-rate medical community.

Kimbrel’s daughter, Lydia Joy, was born in November with a heart issue.

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“It’s been a lot,” Kimbrel said Saturday at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. “My wife and I, we’ve kept it kind of private. But when she was born, she had some heart defects so we decided to stay in Boston and work with Children’s Hospital and just been going through that ordeal and it’s had its ups and downs but she’s doing great right now."

Focusing wasn't always easy in season, but Kimbrel said his daughter's condition has motivated him even more.

“They always say when you have a child, things change and they have," he said. "I’m definitely more focused towards her and her needs and our family needs. It’s just one day at a time and give everything I got. It’s real easy to look at her and understand everything I’m doing is for her and it makes it a lot easier.”

Kimbrel and his wife, Ashley, found out early in the 2017 season that they would be staying in Boston for the winter and were preparing.

“Everything has kind of gone as planned so far,” Kimbrel said. “She’ll have another surgery during spring training, so I’ll come back to Boston for a week and do that, but it’s been good. It’s definitely been tough, but one of the happiest, joyful times of our life.”

"Being in Boston, we feel blessed, because the doctors are the best in the world. Being able to work with them has been great.”

Kimbrel said his wife has stayed in touch with Travis Shaw’s wife. The Shaw family has had a similar experience, Kimbrel said.

“It seems like they’re doing pretty good,” Kimbrel said. “It’s been very encouraging to see.”

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